Guam – The armed forces committee of the chamber of commerce is rather confident that the military buildup will happen after meeting with key military and civilian officials in Washington D.C. they believe it all comes down to the strategic importance of Guam and Micronesia as an area that the U.S. must keep from getting into the hands of China.
They met with a whole slew of officials from PACCOM, JGPO, the Department of the Navy, the House of Representatives, the Senate and even White House Representatives. They met with officials like Navy Undersecretary Robert Work, Senators like Daniel Inouye and staffers for Senator Clair Mckaskill’s office just to name a few. All in order to spread the word of their white papers in essence lobbying for the relocation of marines from Okinawa to Guam. “We wanted to share our point of view on what’s happening in the area of security and the reasons for the U.S. presence and involvement in our area,” said Chamber of Commerce Armed Forces Committee Member Gerry Perez.
One of the underlying messages they pushed is the growing influence of China in this region and how it could affect the U.S.’s strategic interests. They focused on reminding U.S. officials of the price the U.S. paid to win Micronesia during WWII and how much it would cost to regain the region if it were lost.
“Micronesia itself covers 12 and half million square miles it’s as large as the United States it sits in the Pacific which occupies one third of the surface of the whole globe no one really knows what resources lie here we know that there are significant oil deposits in Palau and we know that the Chinese over the last 15 to 20 years have been very very aggressively moving into the pacific islands both north and south of the equator,” said Armed Forces Committee member Lee Webber adding, “China’s going around the world soaking up enormous amounts of resources because they realize there’s 750 million people in the provinces who want to move into the city.” Webber said that because of China’s need for resources the country has begun investing in places like Micronesia to gain soft power. “The Chinese government has enormous resources and this is what we were trying to drive home most of the islands in Micronesia and throughout the pacific are very very small economies. It doesn’t take a lot of money to own political soft power, economic soft power, and business soft power throughout these regions,” said Webber. The Armed Forces Committee member also relayed a story of a trip he took to Palau in which officials there said that if the U.S. Did not give Palau what they want out of their compact of free association they would begin looking at getting what they want from China.
The Chamber Armed Forces Committee members believe this message struck home with the officials they met in Washinton. “We found absolutely no disagreement or negative push backs to the white paper message the underlying message that’s contained in the white paper that we presented,” said Perez. He also says that all alternatives of the U.S. realignment in Asia have been deemed unacceptable which means Guam is still the most viable option for the relocation of marines. Mostly due to the fact that it is U.S. Soil. “Guam is home and sovereign U.S. soil and can operate freely without any diplomatic entanglements,” explained Perez.
Although cost is a major concern of the buildup especially in light of the fiscally conservative climate of Washington and the current U.S. debt crisis. While Senators Car Levin, Jim Webb, and John Mcain have offered Kadena as an alternative place to move the Okinawan marines, Perez says they’ve found that this option has already been studied and found to be unfeasible. Perez says the U.S. marine corps is committed to the buildup, the Japan defense minister Toshimi Kitizawa and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta both reaffirmed the relocation of marines to Guam. “Bottom line is there my be some differences in the margin and there might be some delays in the scheduling but fundamentally the key principle of the road map is being maintained,” said Perez.
The Chamber Armed Forces Committee left Washington D.C. with the impression that the buildup would proceed just at a slower pace and over a longer period of time. They now believe the completion date for the buildup is likely beyond 2018.