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Is Guam, USA, Tåno Y Chamorro, the “Tip of the Spear” or “First-Strike Community”?

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Is Guam, USA, Tåno Y Chamorro, the “Tip of the Spear” or “First-Strike Community”?

This article examines the place of Guam in the geopolitical competition between the US and the PRC.

This article was written by Kylar Cade.

Guam, a U.S. territory, is closer to Beijing, Manila, Pyongyang, Seoul, Taipei, and Tokyo, than it is to the U.S. state of Hawai’i, let alone the U.S. mainland.

While the US may be involved in conflict in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, it has been steadily maintaining and building up its presence in East and Southeast Asia, as well as the Pacific. This is largely a response to the threat and “pacing challenge” it perceives to be emanating from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which is part of the so-called Indo-Pacific region.

The centrality of Guam to U.S. military strategy in the Indo-Pacific region was on full display this month with the deployment of nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the island; the occurrence of Exercise Cope North 24, the largest exercise for the U.S. Pacific Air Forces; and the visit of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. These activities have start and end dates. However, the larger focus on the island, followed by an expansion in defense posturing thereon, began years ago even before the November 2011 announcement by the Obama administration of the “pivot to Asia.” The attention and buildup on Guam are in for the long run.

This situation analysis first offers a background on Guam, which includes material on US-Guam relations, which largely hinges on the U.S. military. It also covers the local, and to a lesser degree regional (Micronesian subregion), thoughts and impacts of the U.S. drive to build up its armed capabilities on the territory while considering Chinese perception(s) of and pressures on the island. At the end is a suggestion.

Background

Guam is an island that is around 30 miles (51 kilometers) long and four miles (seven kilometers) wide at the narrowest point.[1] It is the largest of the Mariana Islands, which are in the western Pacific Ocean, due east of the Philippines. As mentioned above, it is a U.S. territory, albeit an unincorporated one, whereas the other Mariana Islands make up the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), another type of unincorporated territory.

Not only does it provide a habitat for native and invasive flora and fauna, but in 2020 it was also home to over 153,000 U.S. citizens and residents[2] and was a destination for hundreds of thousands of tourists in 2023 (less than the peak of over a million-and-a-half visitors before the Covid-19 pandemic)[3]. The proportion of the native CHamoru/Chamorro people in the island population has decreased, in 2010 amounting to over a third of the ethnic composition of Guamanians.[4] They have lived on Guåhan (the CHamoru word for Guam) for thousands of years, weathering the typhoons and earthquakes that have been familiar to the island for hundreds of years, if not longer.

Unfortunately, the CHamoru people on Guam have seen their share of geopolitics in the past centuries, first having been colonized by the Spanish, then being governed by the US because of the Spanish-American War, before falling under the control of Japanese Imperial forces during World War II. The island was retaken by the US in 1944, which is celebrated as Liberation Day. The United Nations considers Guam to be one of the 17 non-self-governing territories (NSGTs).

1 – US-Guam Relations

Any understanding of the current geopolitical competition between the US and the PRC, as far as Guam is concerned, must be grounded in the historical presence of the former country on the island. US possession of Guam is an international phenomenon as well.

In the international arena, and thus in UN terms, the US-Guam relationship is fundamentally one of administering power and NSGT given that the island’s self-government is limited. (This designation dates to the post-World War II years when the US voluntarily listed Guam on a UN list of NSGTs. It is in line with Article 73 of the UN Charter, and the international community has over the decades further clarified what it means to be colonized and to exercise self-determination in contemporary times.)

Guam has repeatedly gone before the UN to voice its concerns and aspirations regarding its non-self-determined status. In 2023, the executive director of the 1997-founded Guam Commission on Decolonization spoke at the UN Special Committee on Decolonization. Among his words were these: “Ultimately, this exercise of the administering Power’s unilateral authority over Guam perpetuates and prolongs, but does not resolve, the democratic deficiencies inherent in our status. This comes at a time when Guam is at the center of regional tensions, in which our people bear the most immediate and significant burden of conflict.”[5]

In the present millennium, only one UN General Assembly stand-alone resolution on Guam, A/RES/72/103 of its 72nd session (2017-2018), has been voted on. Supporting Guam efforts to realize self-determination, that resolution was adopted by 93 votes to 8, with 65 abstentions, each vote representing a country. The PRC approved the resolution while the US did not.[6]

Despite international attention on Guam, it is the US metropole, with its national legal system and geostrategic interests, that predominantly has shaped Guam’s trajectory over the past 125 years. Shortly after coming into U.S. hands, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized Guam and other acquired territories as subordinate to the union. Moreover, the U.S. Navy governed the island for decades, including in post-World War II years. It selected local officials[7] and controlled entry to the island.

Aspects of local governance have come to fruition, although they have had to be approved by the U.S. Congress. For example, because of a 1968 amendment to the 1950 Organic Act, which granted U.S. citizenship to CHamoru persons and their descendants, as well as to those born on the island from a set date, Guam has popular elections for governor and lieutenant governor every four years. 

Nevertheless, the people of Guam cannot vote in U.S. national elections, and their only representative in the U.S. Congress has a very limited vote. Efforts for locals to have a say in their political future have been halting, ranging from the failure to pass a draft Guam Commonwealth Act after years of negotiations to recent lawsuits concerning CHamoru-related affairs. Yet there is depth of thought to indigenous decolonization efforts.[8] (The current US federal administration has been more favorable to self-determination activities.)

U.S. geostrategy is another significant aspect underlying US-Guam relations. It is because the U.S. Navy’s control over access to Guam was lifted in 1961 that the now bustling tourism industry, which accounts for the largest share of island GDP, came to be.[9] Even so, the economy of the island maintains firm ties to and influences from the military; the armed forces provide significant contribution the economy. The strategic interest of the metropole has been adopted and ingrained to such an extent in CHamoru society that roadways have names related to the armed forces and reminders of World War II are commonplace. In fact, the main vehicle artery is Marine Corps Drive. However, “[w]hen Guam thinks about major conflict scenarios in the future, its people are not empowered to define their own security landscape.”[10]

Guam’s place in U.S. geopolitical understanding and involvement has also translated into three congressional delegations visiting the island in the space of eight months in 2023. The U.S. Congress has elevated the defense of Guam to a high level of priority.

2 – U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Guam-Related Presence and Activities

The U.S. military has made clear that Guam is part of the U.S. homeland and that it is a strategic asset for U.S. power projection in the event of a conflict in the South China Sea, Taiwan Strait, or the Korean Peninsula. However, observations have been made regarding the effects of the military on administered territories. Guam is one of the territories where the establishment of the armed forces has a particularly strong (positive and/or negative in the views of various persons) impact on the local setting.

The National Defense Strategy states: “Within the context of homeland defense, an attack on Guam or any other U.S. territory by any adversary will be considered a direct attack on the United States, and will be met with an appropriate response. Additionally, Guam is home to key regional power projection platforms and logistical nodes, and is an essential operating base for U.S. efforts to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The architecture for defense of the territory against missile attacks will therefore be commensurate with its unique status as both an unequivocal part of the United States as well as a vital regional location. Guam’s defense, which will include various active and passive missile defense capabilities, will contribute to the overall integrity of integrated deterrence and bolster U.S. operational strategy in the Indo-Pacific region.”[11]

In 2020, there were around 21,700 military personnel and their family on Guam, making up around 14 percent of the island population.[12] It is home to U.S. military infrastructure and possessions that cover over 25 percent of the land.[13] The U.S. Navy is the most prominent of the military branches on Guam.

DoD-overseen land includes Andersen Air Force Base. It is a sprawling site that takes up the northern tips of the island, and it hosts rotational Air Force units and permanent Navy aircraft. The installation also stores more fuel and munitions than any other U.S. Air Force base. Moving southward, one would come across Marine Corps Camp Blaz, the first U.S. Marine base to be activated in decades when it opened in 2020, and a U.S. Army Reserve garrison. Around the middle of the island is a deep-water harbor that supports a large naval installation and that is the permanent base for a number of nuclear-powered submarines.

Guam was a major launching pad for bombing runs in the Vietnam War. (At this time, the US also sent armed forces personnel to Taiwan. They supported the war effort.[14]) In the post-Cold War years, various features of the military presence were reduced or dismantled, including a ship-repair facility, due to the emphasis on Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). However, the footprint of the armed forces has been growing post-2011, with a marked increase starting this decade. “[C]onstruction spending on the island is projected to peak in [fiscal year] 2025.”[15] Over a span of more than a dozen years ending in fiscal year 2028, billions of dollars will have been spent on the military buildup on Guam alone.

Among the most consequential DoD investments are those that are identified in the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI), which was inspired by the deterrence initiative for Europe. Guam is central to the initiative, which identifies funds for the construction of Camp Blaz and the development and deployment of an Enhanced Integrated Air and Missile Defense (EIAMD) system. Camp Blaz will host both permanent and rotational groups of marines. By 2028, if plans proceed unimpeded, there will be 5,000 marines on island; the total number of military personnel may be further enlarged for purposes of the EIAMD and other more.[16]

As for the EIAMD, components may be situated on 20 individual sites on the territory. “MDA officials say some components of a new missile defense system may be operational by the end of FY2024.”[17] At its completion, the system would network various missile defense technologies, including the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery that was deployed to the island in 2013 because of missile tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea).[18] “The INDOPACOM commander testified that ‘the Guam missile defense system remains the Indo-Pacific’s Number One priority.’”[19]

Military bases and exercises on the island make Guam an essential part of the vision that the US and its partners have for a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” It has even been labeled the “tip of the spear,” the westernmost extension of US sovereignty over land. “In May 2022, Navy Admiral John C. Aquilino, Commander of INDOPACOM [the U.S. Department of Defense command for the Indo-Pacific theater], testified that ‘Guam’s strategic importance is difficult to overstate.’”[20] Even in 2011, Guam was designated “[t]the pivot point of [US Pacific Command (now Indo-Pacific Command)’s]” “strategy to deter China from driving the US out of Asia and the Western Pacific.”[21]

Figure 1. A map showing U.S. military installations in grey and EIAMD-related additions. (Trevithick, Joseph. “Guam’s Airspace Set to Be Most Defended on Earth in New Plans.” The War Zone, August 11, 2023. Accessed February 17, 2024 https://www.twz.com/guams-airspace-set-to-be-most-defended-on-earth-in-new-plans.)

The U.S. frames its armed power on the island and in the wider region as contributing to deterrence. Deterrence is aimed at the PRC in relation to both the question of Taiwan and its ambitions in the South China Sea, where it has been a part of recent tensions with the Philippines, a U.S.-treaty ally. The US also seeks to dissuade the DPRK from any acts of aggression. 

Moreover, it is working to build “integrated deterrence.” This concept involves not only cultivating interoperability among the branches of the U.S. armed forces but also with its partners and allies. The territory provides a space where both types of interoperability can be forged. For example, “Guam frequently hosts U.S. military engagements with allies in the

Pacific region. In April 2023, the United States hosted a two-week joint military exercise in Guam with military units from Japan, Korea, India, and Canada. Reportedly, some Taiwanese troops have participated in urban combat training with the U.S. Marines on Guam.”[22] Moreover, there are plans for the Singapore Air Force to permanently place aircraft on Andersen Air Force Base.[23]

It has been said that U.S. forces on Guam reassure allies of American commitment to the region, given that it is U.S. territory.[24] Additionally, it offers the DoD an alternative, geographically favorable site for positioning military personnel and hardware that allies may

not agree to be placed in their countries.[25] In fact, the construction of Camp Blaz is partially funded (to the tune of billions of dollars) by the Japanese government, as part of a plan to relocate thousands of U.S. marines from the Japanese island of Okinawa. Locals there had expressed opposition to the presence of the U.S. military.

Local Impact and Thoughts

DoD’s influence on local affairs follows its historical administration of the island and is tied to the position of Guam in the Indo-Pacific theater. Indeed, although the U.S. Congress has ultimate oversight of the territory, the current governor stated that when she goes to Washington D.C., her interactions are with the U.S. military and the White House.[26] Nonetheless, as much Guamanian participation as there has been in the U.S. military, and despite (or maybe also because of) the fact that Guam has one of the highest numbers of veterans per capita in the US,[27] locals have also spoken and acted against the armed forces.

The government of Guam understands its role as a local public body with direct ties to native islanders and residents that is also constrained by the prerogatives and interests of the U.S. Congress and military. In a meeting with “cultural and environmental activists,” the current governor said: “I do support the military buildup. I don’t support it for the economic reasons. I support it for the national security reasons.”[28] She has also testified before a U.S. congressional gathering: “[B]ecause Guam can project power throughout the Indo-Pacific region, China is working to project equal power onto Guam and its sister islands.”[29]

Military-related investment and infrastructure projects on the island offer its residents the opportunity to push for off-base improvements. As an example, “The federal government provided $186 million […] in recent years to fund infrastructure investments outside military installations on Guam; [DoD] considered these investments an important step in persuading the governor of Guam to sign an agreement with the Navy to permit live-fire exercises on the island.”[30] 

The economic benefits of military personnel spending at local businesses around the world is a major point that the U.S. armed forces touts. This is likely true to an extent.[31] However, employment at such businesses may largely be low-wage and relatively unskilled, as in Fayetteville, North Carolina, which is near one of the largest military complexes in the world.[32] Other drawbacks have arisen too. On Guam, the U.S. armed presence implies and involves advantaged and disadvantaged parties.

Even back in the period of the Vietnam War that saw an uptick in military operations on Guam, the argument went that the armed forces offered economic benefits to the locals, and thus they were welcoming of American warfighters to the island.[33] Yet nowadays “military housing allowances unfairly skew real estate and housing costs [and there are] discounted prices for food, gasoline and other goods”[34] that specified individuals with base access can enjoy.

The U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) included the following issues in a recent report entitled Guam: Defense Infrastructure and Readiness: taxed electrical infrastructure; strains on drinking water and wastewater treatment; housing and labor shortages; and environmental pressures. However, the CRS is looking at these issues in relation to the burden placed on the military, rather than on the locals. Other objects of opposition include the potential military deployment of nuclear micro-reactors to Guam to ensure a supply of energy for critical infrastructure (and perhaps the EIADM/Guam Missile Defense system); possible positioning of intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) on the island; and occupying ancestral and traditional CHamoru lands.

Already, the locals of Guam have had to contend with the exposure to radiation from U.S. nuclear testing in the Pacific in decades past. The island was also used to store the toxic chemical Agent Orange. In 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District Court of Columbia “acknowledged that the ‘United States deposited dangerous munitions and chemicals at the Ordot dump for decades and left Guam to foot the bill.’”[35] Other sources report more grievous details regarding U.S. military engagements on the territory.

Grievances such as those caused by toxic and/or radioactive activities are still in the process of being dealt with. Now there are concerns about the DoD’s Project Pele, which involves the development of a mobile nuclear micro-reactor. Project members visited Guam in January 2024 to consider it as a potential site for the placement of one such reactor. In the summer of 2023, a senator in the Guam legislature put forward a bill that would ban nuclear energy on the island.

Claims for the return and/or protection of DoD-controlled land are another enduring source of tension. “Tåno, or land, is the one issue in Guåhan that can turn anyone who protests the United States, whether they be a soldier, […,] into an activist.”[36] Thus, thousands of comments were made about the 2009 release of an 11,000-page DoD document that detailed impacts of a buildup on Guam and a nearby island in what would have been the “largest transient peacetime military buildup in U.S. history.”[37]

As for environmental risks the militarization of Guam entails is the fact that Andersen Air Force Base and a Marine live-firing range sit above the most significant water aquifer on the island. Thus, chemicals have already seeped into the water supply, and weapons use could lead to contamination.

There are those who think that an expanded and enhanced military posture on the island territory will make it an inevitable target. What is worse, the effectiveness of the EAIMD system is shaky, particularly concerning missiles with hypersonic glide vehicles that the PRC may field in the event of a conflict. The THAAD battery has challenges too. As Dr. Robert Underwood, chair of the Pacific Center for Island Security, observes, “You don’t have to be an expert to understand that in the face of sophisticated attacks, missile defense systems will not protect Guam or even the military facilities in Guam. The fact that the agency in charge of ‘missile defense’ is called out for not even putting these systems to real world tests raises serious doubts about claims of ‘success.’”

Reservations and opposition notwithstanding, the U.S. armed forces have pressed ahead with their intentions to strengthen their position on Guam. In the same, aforementioned meeting with activists, the governor also remarked that “the reality is Guam is a colony, a U.S. territory, and is in a geographic position that the military sees as a prime position for defense in the Pacific […] To work around this reality, Guam needs to get its political status in order so it can have more control over its destiny and be at the table when these issues are being negotiated.”[38]

Regional Impact and Thoughts

US engagements on Guam cannot be separated from the regional context. It is the hub for spokes that reach other islands in the Micronesian subregion, particularly the Pacific Island Countries (PICs) of Belau (Palau), the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), and the Marshall Islands (RMI). These three countries maintain compacts of free association (COFAs) with the US, which once administered them. The former gained independence in 1994, whereas the latter two had already done so in 1991. Under the compacts, the three PICs devolved their defense to the US, which in turn gained exclusive rights to station military forces on their lands.

Joint Region Marianas has command over the U.S. military presence on Guam. Although it is headquartered on the island, its responsibilities also extend to the CNMI, as its name suggests. Additionally, the head of the command is INDOPACOM’s Senior Military Official for Guam, CNMI, and the three COFA island states.[39]

An armed forces buildup on Guam is occurring in conjunction with other military projects on the three PICs. One connection between the island territory and its neighbors is the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on an atoll in the Marshall Islands. Testing there has been and will be consequential to the success of the EAIMD in protecting Guam from missile strikes.

A more direct connection between Guam and a neighbor is the construction of a divert airfield on Tinian, one of the Mariana Islands. (In World War II, the U.S. military established what was at one point the world’s largest airport. It is from this island that two bombers took off on two separate days to drop the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.) Aircraft would be diverted from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam to Tinian to reduce the likelihood of a severe loss of hardware in case of Chinese strikes.

Residents of CNMI have been vocal in their opposition, for example to a “2015 blueprint to establish the C.N.M.I. Joint Military Training facility.”[40]  Current work on Tinian has included a plan to build “a major pipeline to run from the seaport to the airport, which will run directly over a potable water source.”[41]

As of 15 February 2024, funds for the renegotiated (in 2023) COFA agreements have yet to disbursed, let alone included in a congressional budget that has been approved. Commentators have noted that this only spurs the PRC to make economic overtures to islanders in the three PICs. CNMI is already reeling from an immense drop in Chinese tourist numbers: from over 185,000 in 2019 to less than 200 in 2020. National security limitations that U.S. lawmakers have considered imposing would cement the dismal performance of the tourism industry.[42]

PRC Perceptions of Guam

The PRC is well aware of Guam. In 2020, the PRC military released a video that showed a Chinese H-6 bomber launching a missile at Andersen Air Force Base. Not only that, the US considers that Beijing has the territory in its sights. “In every iteration of war games between the United States and China run by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (C.S.I.S.), Beijing’s first strike on U.S. soil has been to bomb Guam.”[43] This would make it a “first-strike community” a term that Dr. Underwood has used.

The strikes would be from missiles, such as the DF-26, drawn from a very large arsenal that the PRC has been steadily growing in number and capability as part of its A2/AD strategy. The strategy is essentially to prevent and defeat enemy movement and attacks within an area that has increasingly extended farther out from the Chinese mainland.

Figure 2. “Approximate PLA ‘throw weight’ against Various Targets in the Western Pacific” (Clark, Bryan and Timothy A. Walton. “Regaining the High Ground Against China: A Plan to Achieve US Naval Aviation Superiority This Decade.” Washington D.C.,: Hudson Institute. 2022. Accessed January 18, 2024. Pdf from https://www.hudson.org/national-security-defense/defending-guam.)

In Chinese and U.S. military jargon, Guam is a part of the Second Island Chain, which for the US (at least) extends from the Japanese mainland, through CNMI and Guam, and on to Papua New Guinea. Guam is recognized by Chinese strategists as the “core” of this chain, which has “been built into a fully functional military base” (machine-translated by Google).[44] 

Before that line of defense is the First Island Chain, which consists of Okinawa, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Chinese strategic thinking also identifies the Marshall Islands and Hawai’i as the third and fourth lines of defense. The four lines make up “a ‘wide strategic […] deployment area for various huge maritime forces and missile submarine launch sites of the United States, […] which can carry out devastating strikes deep into China’s territory at any time. To cope with this situation of the United States, under the conditions of high-tech and information-based warfare, the Chinese navy should send part of its troops to the depth of the US military’s defense in the Western Pacific, turning the depth of the United States into China’s frontier” (machine-translated by Google).[45]

A manifestation of “high-tech and information-based warfare” is Volt Typhoon, a PRC-sponsored cyber actor. In 2023, Microsoft made the public aware that it had detected activity in the cyberspaces of “critical infrastructure organizations [on] Guam and elsewhere in the United States” that it attributed to the group: “Microsoft assesses with moderate confidence that this Volt Typhoon campaign is pursuing development of capabilities that could disrupt critical communications infrastructure between the United States and Asia region during future crises.”[46]

The Chinese military has also sent “part of its troops to the depth of the US military’s defense in the Western Pacific.” In 2023, “[r]eports of a Chinese aircraft carrier operating in waters near Guam [were] confirmed by Joint Region Marianas.”[47]

Chinese media have been following Guam’s goings-on. They have published content that shows an awareness of the military developments related to the U.S. territory. PRC media have also noted the public dissatisfaction with the US military buildup.

Many, if not most, researchers and scholars in the PRC have come to see the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy in a bad light.[48] A paper entitled Analysis on the US “Indo-Pacific” Military Deterrence Strategy that was published by the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, which is under the auspices of the Ministry of State Security, criticizes the construction and use of the Indo-Pacific region. Its author demonstrates a strong understanding of U.S. military concepts and views the strategy for the region as comprehensive but made up of contradictions.[49]

In the face of reports about U.S. considerations about placing IRBMs on Guam, Fu Cong, the Chinese foreign ministry director of arms control made clear the provocation that would be inherent in such a move. “Fu […] said China will not stand idly by and will be forced to take countermeasures should the [US] deploy intermediate-range ground-based missiles in this part of the world.”[50]

The PRC continues with its 2035-destined military modernization, which likely accounts for U.S. military posturing and assets in the country’s proximity. In the meantime, it will likely look for ways to take advantage of grievances that islanders have toward the U.S. Indo-Pacific military buildup and activities. If not, it will cause or prepare for disruptions to dissuade or neutralize an American and allied response to its actions that they deem inappropriate.

Conclusion

Even as Chinese migrants recently have been trying to illegally enter Guam via the sea, which is somewhat reminiscent of such occurrences in 1999 when “[n]early 600 Chinese [were] held on Guam, and 400 more […] taken to an abandoned World War II airfield on the island of Tinian after being intercepted at sea,”[51] the U.S. island territory is at the center of much military strategizing in Beijing and Washington. Relations are relatively stable at the moment, but they are at a low and are trending lower and could quickly deteriorate if an accident were to occur, let alone a conflict. One can only reflect upon the February 2023 bewilderment of Americans as a Chinese balloon drifted across the US. (A U.S. official remarked that the original trajectory “would have taken it over Guam and Hawaii but [it] was blown off course by prevailing winds.”[52])

Yet amid superpower competition and the re-orientation of the world toward Asian power, economies, and populations are the local debates on Guåhan and in the Micronesian region about the fate of its peoples and environment. Generally speaking, the territorial status of Guam basically means one thing (“America in Asia”) for the U.S. military and government and another thing (constraints on rights, such as self-determination) for locals. The island territory and the larger Indo-Pacific strategy that the US is advancing also have different meanings for the PRC, US allies, and others in the region.

US officials must not forget that even among their allies there are variations in interests and objectives regarding the Indo-Pacific. These may manifest as stronger attention placed on a less-encompassing region (such as the Blue Pacific or the lands of the ASEAN members) or as an emphasis on maintaining ties with both the PRC and the US.[53]

For example, in the case of the South China Sea tensions, would the US employ its military might based on or supported by Guam, when the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia (each with varying histories, views, and ties with China) might be seeking a more nuanced approach? ASEAN-PRC talks regarding conduct in the sea must be acknowledged by the US and its Western allies. Or, in the case of Pacific islander desires for less militarization in their ocean home and more effort on combating climate and development issues, would the US pursue security links and infrastructure (such as divert airfields and prepositioned supplies)? Pacific Island Countries have deep ties (from colonial years) with the US and the West but also want to exercise national and regional agency and not just receive aid. Guam wants to be a member of the family of Pacific (islands) regionalism.

Director Fu addressed his above remarks to the Agence France-Presse (AFP), a France-based global news agency. Not only is France striving to offer a third way to the Indo-Pacific region, it is also an administering power of territories in the Pacific Ocean and has participated in military exercises on Guam. Other European and Asian countries are involved in the Pacific as well. Importantly, Pacific islanders continue to dialogue amongst themselves and to have connections with other Global South actors. The situations of Guam and other NSGTs are an international issue that could benefit from input from actors around the world.

“A hypersonic boost-glide missile or intermediate-range ballistic missile launched from Guam that traveled at an average speed of Mach 10 could reach the eastern coast of China in 15 minutes.”[54] Is Guam the “tip of the spear” or the “first-strike community”? Time will tell. In any case, there is more to this military-oriented discussion.

References

  [1] Guam Environmental Protection Agency. “2020 Integrated Report.” Tiyan, Guam: EPA, 2020. Accessed February 17, 2024 https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwj7ma7W2rCEAxVhh-4BHVTeCdoQFnoECA8QAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fattains.epa.gov%2Fattains-public%2Fapi%2Fdocuments%2Fcycles%2F7088%2F198964&usg=AOvVaw2Q22XOp_r9bbHWir6scEkY&opi=89978449.

[2] US Census Bureau. “Census Bureau Releases 2020 Census Demographic and Housing Characteristics Summary File for Guam.” Census.gov, July 26, 2023. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2023/2020-dhc-summary-file-guam.html#:~:text=Demographic%20Characteristics%20in%202020,and%2075%2C565%20females%20(49.1%25).

[3] Taitano II, Joe. “GVB: Tourism Doubled in the First 9 Months of Fiscal 2023.” The Guam Daily Post, July 7, 2023. Accessed February 17, 2024 https://www.postguam.com/news/local/gvb-tourism-doubled-in-the-first-9-months-of-fiscal-2023/article_74102392-1ba1-11ee-8f0e-abdca61aa492.html.

[4] CIA. “Guam – People and Society.” Central Intelligence Agency, February 13, 2024. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/guam/#people-and-society.

[5] Won Pat-Borja, Melvin. “Melvin Won Pat-Borja (Designee for the Governor of Guam) Executive Director Special Political and Decolonization Committee, United Nations October 03, 2023.” Hagåtña, Guam: Ricardo J. Bordallo Governor’s Complex, 2023. Accessed February 17 2024 https://estatements.unmeetings.org/estatements/11.0040/20231003150000000/TJtph3zjSJw7/wnvnPLJWPNnT_en.pdf.

[6] UN Special Political and Decolonization Committee. “Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly on 7 December 2017 – Question of Guam – Seventy-Second Session Agenda Item 62 – A/72/PV.66.” New York: UN General Assembly, 2017. Accessed February 17, 2024 https://documents.un.org/doc/undoc/gen/n17/431/08/pdf/n1743108.pdf?token=eFFDqpkw93eC8GOUFF&fe=true.

[7] Thompson, Laura. “Guam: Study in Military Government.” Far Eastern Survey 13, no. 16 (1944): 149–54. https://doi.org/10.2307/3021994.

[8] See publications on the Guam Commission on Decolonization website.

[9] Babauta, Chloe. “For Chamorus, Lifting Security Clearance Was ‘like Getting out of Prison.’” Barnstable Patriot, September 16, 2018. Accessed February 15, 2024 https://www.barnstablepatriot.com/story/news/2018/09/16/years-guam-travelers-needed-navy-approval/1199596002/.

[10] Herlevi, April A., ed. Rep. Charting a New Course for the Pacific Islands Strategic Pathways for U.S.-Micronesia Engagement, March 21, 2023. Accessed January 17, 2024 https://www.nbr.org/publication/charting-a-new-course-for-the-pacific-islands-strategic-pathways-for-u-s-micronesia-engagement/.

[11] Department of Defense. “2022 National Defense Strategy of The United States of America.” Arlington: Department of Defense, 2022. Accessed February 17, 2024 https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/trecms/pdf/AD1183514.pdf.

[12] Military Onesource. “Joint Region Marianas-Naval Base Guam.” 2024. Accessed February 17, 2024. https://installations.militaryonesource.mil/in-depth-overview/joint-region-marianas-naval-base-guam#:~:text=Guam%20has%20a%20population%20of,military%20members%20and%20their%20families.

[13] Tilghman, Andrew. “Guam: Defense Infrastructure and Readiness.” Washington D.C.: CRS, 2023. Accessed January 13, 2024 https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R47643.

[14] Treaster, Joseph B. “Guam a Center of U.S. Build‐up as Vietnam Pullout Progresses.” The New York Times, October 7, 1972. Accessed February 17, 2024. https://www.nytimes.com/1972/10/07/archives/new-jersey-pages-guam-a-center-of-us-buildup-as-vietnam-pullout.html.

[15] Tilghman, 2023.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Kim, Jack, and Phil Stewart. “U.S. to Send Missile Defences to Guam over North Korea Threat.” reuters.com, 2013. https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSBRE9320YR/.

[19] Tilghman, 2023.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Halloran, Richard. “Pacific Push.” unknown: Air Force MAGAZINE, 2011. Accessed February 2024 https://www.airandspaceforces.com/PDF/MagazineArchive/Documents/2011/January%202011/0111pacific.pdf

[22] Tilghman, 2023.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Yara, Tomohiro. “Exploring Solutions to the U.S. Military-Base Issues in Okinawa.” Hokkaido University, Sapporo: Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, 2012. Accessed February 2024: https://src-h.slav.hokudai.ac.jp/publictn/eurasia_border_review/Vol32/yara.pdf

[26] Paskal, Cleo. “War Flashbacks in Guam as China Projects Power in the Pacific.” FDD, September 18, 2023. Accessed February 17, 2024. https://www.fdd.org/analysis/2023/09/17/war-flashbacks-in-guam-as-china-projects-power-in-the-pacific/.

[27] Topol, Sarah A., and Glenna Gordon. “The America That Americans Forget.” The New York Times, July 7, 2023. Accessed February 17, 2024. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/07/magazine/guam-american-military.html.

[28] O’Connor, John. “Governor Supports Buildup Due to China, NKorea Risks .” postguam.com, 2019. Accessed February 16, 2024 https://www.postguam.com/news/local/governor-supports-buildup-due-to-china-nkorea-risks/article_622bf5f4-9728-11e9-a4b9-578f88868202.html.

[29] Paskal, 2023.

[30] Tilghman, 2023.

[31] Tomas, Jojo Santo. “Cope North, Roosevelt Activity Spikes Guam Economy.” guampdn.com, February 11, 2024. https://www.guampdn.com/news/cope-north-roosevelt-activity-spikes-guam-economy/article_685af620-c7c8-11ee-be6c-67776d08d9ab.html.

[32] Kuper, Kenneth Gofigan, and Joseph Bradley. “The Political Statuses of Statehood, Free Association, and Independence.” Hagåtña, Guam: Commission on Decolonization, 2021. Accessed February 2024 https://decol.guam.gov/sites/default/files/giha-mona-sd-study_part-ii-digital-1.pdf

[33] Treater, 1972.

[34] Letman, Jon. “Proposed US Military Buildup on Guam Angers Locals Who Liken It to Colonization.” The Guardian, August 1, 2016. Accessed February 17, 2024 https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/01/guam-us-military-marines-deployment.

[35] The Guam Daily Post. “Guam Needs to Be Compensated for Military’s Toxic Waste.” The Guam Daily Post, February 20, 2020. Accessed February 2024 https://www.postguam.com/forum/editorial/guam-needs-to-be-compensated-for-militarys-toxic-waste/article_5d18c68c-52e4-11ea-99f8-4b92964bb924.html.

[36] Na’puti, T. R., & Bevacqua, M. L.. “Militarization and Resistance from Guåhan: Protecting and Defending Pågat.” American Quarterly, 2015, 67(3), 837–858. Accessed February 17, 2024 http://www.jstor.org/stable/43823236.

[37] Ibid.

[38] O’Connor, 2019.

[39] Tilghman, 2023.

[40] Topol and Gordon, 2023.

[41] “Cloud hangs over future of Solomon Islands National Institute of Sport, placing 70 jobs at risk.” Produced by ABC Radio Australia. Pacific Beat. January 29, 2024. Podcast, 47 minutes, 13:11 to 19:59.

[42] Manabat, Bryan. “Tourism Industry in a Tight Spot.” Marianas Variety News & Views, December 29, 2023. Accessed February 17, 2024. https://www.mvariety.com/specials/2023/year_in_review/tourism-industry-in-a-tight-spot/article_1bfb7a02-a57c-11ee-97ff-437900f1fdcd.html#:~:text=MVA%20Managing%20Director%20Chris%20Concepcion,2021%3B%20and%20186%20in%202022.

[43] Topol and Gordon, 2023.

[44] 杜哲元:“中国海军战略演变中的作战海区问题研究”,《太平洋学报》,2017 年第 4 期,第 66-80 页。

DU Zheyuan. “A Research on Sea Area of Operations in the Evolution of China’s Naval Strategy.” Pacific Journal, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2017, pp.66-80. DOI:10.14015 / j.cnki.1004-8049.2017.4.007

[45] Zheyuan, 2017.

[46] Microsoft Threat Intelligence. “Volt Typhoon Targets US Critical Infrastructure with Living-off-the-Land Techniques.” Microsoft Security Blog, May 24, 2023. Accessed February 17, 2024. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/security/blog/2023/05/24/volt-typhoon-targets-us-critical-infrastructure-with-living-off-the-land-techniques/.

[47] Licanto, Nestor. “JRM Confirms Presence of Chinese Warships near Guam Waters.” KUAM.com, April 19, 2023. Accessed February 17, 2024https://www.kuam.com/story/48744587/jrm-confirms-presence-of-chinese-warships-near-guam-waters.

[48] Li, Li, and Tianjiao Jiang. “From Conceptual Idea to Strategic Reality: ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy’ from the Perspective of Chinese Scholars.” Kyungnam University? Johns Hopkins University Press, 2023. Accessed February 17, 2024.https://muse.jhu.edu/article/881961/pdf

[49] Li and Jiang, 2023.

[50] Partido, Gerry. “Guam May Be Stuck with US Missiles; ‘Every Inch of Guam Now Targeted.’” pncguam.com, October 13, 2019. Accessed February 17, 2024. https://www.pncguam.com/guam-may-be-stuck-with-us-missiles-every-inch-of-guam-now-targeted/.

[51] Branigin, William. “Guam’s Own ‘China Beach’ – The Washington Post.” washingtonpost.com, May 5, 1999. Accessed February 2024. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1999/05/06/guams-own-china-beach/9dcb3b6e-0a2c-4adc-99ba-a25e0f1276af/.

[52] Beech, Eric. “Downed Chinese Balloon Aimed for Hawaii but Was Blown off Course – U.S. Official.” reuters.com, February 16, 2023. Accessed February 17, 2024. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/downed-chinese-balloon-aimed-hawaii-was-blown-off-course-us-official-2023-02-15/.

[53] Olson, Stephen. “Three Problems with the US Indo-Pacific Strategy.” Hinrich Foundation, February 15, 2022. Accessed February 19, 2024. https://www.hinrichfoundation.com/research/article/us-china/three-problems-united-states-indo-pacific-strategy/.

[54] Howlett, Christian, ed. Rep. U.S. Hypersonic Weapons and Alternatives. cbo.gov, January 2023. Accessed February 19, 2024. https://www.cbo.gov/publication/58924.

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