As maritime tensions mount with China, the U.S. Coast Guard is looking to expand its role in the Pacific.
Ths U.S. already has 12 maritime law enforcement agreements with Pacific Island Nations, the latest being Papua New Guinea. Under these agreements, U.S. ships work with local officials to crackdown on crime like drug trafficking and illegal fishing.
But some countries are in talks to go even farther and allow U.S. officials board and search foreign ships on their own. The move could add fire to the growing rivalry between the U.S. and China as it would allow U.S. officials to board Chinese vessels in foreign waters.
The Federated States of Micronesia is the first nation to give the U.S. boarding authority. The country has complained of Chinese ships illegally spying in its waters. Meanwhile, Palau is asking the U.S. to step up patrols after making similar complaints.