The United States and Taiwan are strengthening maritime security ties, signing a coastguard agreement that analysts say is meant to counter growing “grey zone” threats from mainland China . The memorandum of understanding is the first between Taipei and the administration of US President Joe Biden , and covers the creation of a coastguard working group to improve communication and share information, according to the American Institute in Taiwan, the US de facto embassy in Taipei. It was signed by institute managing director Ingrid Larson and Taiwanese de facto ambassador Hsiao Bi-khim in Washington on Thursday. “This MOU affirms a relationship with the common objectives of preserving maritime resources; reducing illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; and participating in joint maritime search and rescue as well as maritime environmental response events,” the institute said on Friday. “This MOU builds on the strong people-to-people ties shared by the United States and Taiwan. “The United States supports Taiwan’s meaningful participation and contributions to issues of global concern, including in maritime security and safety, and in building networks to facilitate maritime law enforcement information exchange and international cooperation.” US-China ‘grey zone’ rivalry in South China Sea may be about to intensify Hsiao’s office said in a statement that “Taiwan is ready and willing to do more in the maritime domain” and both sides would forge a stronger partnership and jointly contribute to a free and open Indo-Pacific. “For years, the US and Taiwan coastguards have worked closely together on issues including maritime search and rescue and fisheries enforcement,” Hsiao was quoted as saying. Washington switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei in 1979, but strengthened ties with the self-ruled island from 2017 when Donald Trump became the US president. As the US sought to counter Beijing, Washington and Taipei worked together in various areas, including security, disinformation, technology and supply chains. This week’s agreement is the latest of these efforts and comes after Beijing enacted a law on February 1 allowing its coastguard to fire on foreign ships . Beijing steps up presence in ‘military grey zones’ to pressure Taiwan Observers said the agreement united efforts by Taipei and Washington to counter Beijing’s growing maritime grey zone activities in the region. “It is a political signal aimed at warning China against using its coastguard to fire on foreign ships and telling countries in the region to refrain from making any misjudgment over any potential grey zone conflicts,” said Ho Chih-wei, a legislator from Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party. Su Tzu-yun, a senior analyst at the Institute for National Defence and Security Research, a government think tank in Taipei, said Beijing had stepped up its grey zone actions as part of its strategy to coerce or compel others into a position of disadvantage. “[Beijing’s] introduction of the coastguard law aims to facilitate these grey zone actions,” Su said. Grey-zone threats are non-military operations, from election meddling to aggressive coastguard manoeuvres. Su said Beijing tried to use its coastguard law to tighten its control over disputed islands and waters in the East China and South China seas. Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang said on Friday that Beijing had shocked the region by empowering its coastguard to fire on foreign ships, saying it would “stoke tension and create pressure on neighbouring countries”. Beijing has stressed it has no plans to fire on foreign ships, but Japan and the Philippines, which are US defence treaty allies, have voiced concern about the potential consequences of the law.