• By Alex Rhowuniong

Protection of Guam a ‘top priority’ for US Indo-Pacific Command


China's intermediate range ballistic missiles, the DF-26, also known as "Guam Killer"

In the event of a U.S.-China showdown in the region, the protection of Guam and its assets is top priority for the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, according to its commander, Admiral Philip Davidson.

That long-avoided face-off between the two countries is becoming more possible, as China has been flexing its economic and military muscles, building its presence throughout the Indo-Pacific region and around the world.

“One only needs to look to China’s pernicious approach most recently about Hong Kong and what they’re doing to restrict civil rights and liberties of the people of Hong Kong,” Davidson said in a Defense Writers Group virtual round-table talk last week. “China’s pernicious approach to the region includes a whole of party effort to coerce, corrupt and contest the values embraced by the idea of a free and open Indo-Pacific."

But that’s not all. China has been using cash diplomacy to build allies even in tiny islands such as Kiribati, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Even, today, on the soil of U.S. mainland, Chinese operatives have been caught there as well.

The Fox News last week reported the shutdown of Chinese embassy in Houston, TX. due to spying activities. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, addressing the National Governors Association winter meeting, said “China’s Communist Party has infiltrated various levels of America’s infrastructure and is working to destroy the values of the United States.”

He also said “groups loyal to communist China are operating out in the open in Virginia, Minnesota, Florida and dozens of other states all around the country.”

“The People’s Republic of China,” said the Hawaii-based Davidson, “represents the greatest long-term strategic threat to security, not only to the Indo-Pacific, but to the entire globe. Make no mistake, the party is seeking to supplant the established rules-based international order; trying to dictate new norms and behaviors on the international community, one that they articulate as a new order with Chinese characteristics, something they do quite publicly.

“Our military mission out here [in the Indo-Pacific region] is to ensure continued access to the global economy in the future in the interest of peace and prosperity; and then, of course, to deter any adversarial behavior that would disrupt that," Davidson said.

Davidson made it clear that the international order and the United States are not trying to contain China, nor are they seeking conflict with the communist nation.

Admiral Phillip Davidson

“We’re doing everything we can in the United States and here at Indo-Pacific Command to prevent conflict,” he said. “But part of that calculus is… we’ve got to be ready to fight and win if we’re called upon.”

That’s where the protection and utilization of Guam, the “tip of the spear,” comes in.

To win any war in this region, U.S. must have Guam -- its western most outpost and the former staging area for the WWII Hiroshima bombing-- become a major player. And to do that, Guam must be protected at all cost.

So, from July 21 to Aug. 2, the skies over Guam have been much busier, much noisier than usual. Currently, the Australian Defense Forces, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces have joined forces in a huge trilateral military exercise, preparing for such an event as a clash in the region.

According to The Drive’s War Zone: “The series of events are designed to act as a clear example of how the U.S. is partnering with regional allies amid concerns over security in the Indo-Pacific area, including the South China Sea. (And the deployment of Australian Forces) to Guam underscores the strategic importance of the island, which stands as a key air force and naval staging base in the western Pacific.”

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In a U.S.-China throwdown, the runways at the Andersen Air Force Base would become prime targets, and that has let to “U.S. looking to expand and exploit other facilities such as Wake Island, which would offer a larger buffer against potential enemy attacks.”

Davidson during the roundtable also said the U.S. knows it can certainly lose without fighting in this environment as well: “So a deterrent approach is critically important, and I’m a key advocate for that. It’s important to keep Beijing form achieving its goal of overturning the rules-based international order. We must ensure our diplomatic and economic efforts are reinforced by a strong military deterrent, and that’s foremost here in the Indo-Pacific.”

The objectives were the driving force behind his “Regain the Advantage,” a strategic initiative to implement the National Defense Strategy in the Indo-Pacific region, based on four key focus areas:

* Increasing their joint forces lethality out here in the region;

* Enhancing their forces design and posture;

* Strengthening the network of allies and partners; and

* Advancing their exercises, experimentation and innovation.

“I will say,” Davidson added, “my number one priority and the most important action we can take to rapidly and fully implement the National Defense Strategy, the first step is a 360 degree persistent and integrated air defense capability in Guam-- what I call the ‘Homeland Defense System Guam.’”

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The backbone of such system would be an Aegis Ashore System on Guam by 2026, with the funding secured in 2021, he also said. The system comes with an estimated price tag of $1.67 billion over six years.

Davidson said threats from China, Russia and North Korea are the major security challenges in the region, along with threats from violent extremist organizations in the region, as well as natural disasters such a typhoons, earthquake and tsunami.

“Certainly, there are other significant security challenges across the Indo-Pacific that speak to the complexity of the region. That includes the impacts from climate change, the level of poverty particularly in Southeast Asia, the rapid population growth in the region and, of course, everything that comes with disease and [epidemics]," Davidson said.

“I would say that the values of a free and open Indo-Pacific are even more critical today as we operate under the impacts of Covid-19. As I mentioned before, the United States is not alone in this effort. We remain deeply committed with our allies and partners here in the Indo-Pacific," he added.


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