THE reports are in, and what we might call Buildup 2.0 is on! So what have we learned about it – and about how Washington is looking at the geopolitical chessboard in the Pacific?
Quite a lot ... maybe more than we might really want to know in some ways.
We have learned that after years of insisting the move of the Futenma Marine Air Station in Okinawa to a new location was an absolute precondition to transferring 8,000 Marines off the island, Washington is now planning to reposition them with or without the new airbase.
I have suggested before in this column that the repositioning of the Marines probably has very little to do with the wishes of the Okinawan people – or the economic benefit that might accrue to Guam – and everything to do with a policy of more aggressively encircling and containing an increasingly powerful, confident ... and nationalistic China. Recent reports bear this out.
For example, Japan’s Kyodo News (which has been right on top of this story from the beginning) yesterday said, “The Obama administration has been under pressure from Congress to cut spending, but at the same time is seeking to bolster the U.S. military presence in Asia, mainly in response to China's military buildup. The U.S. plans to transform Guam into a regional security hub to enhance the geographical distribution and operational capabilities of its forces.”
We have also learned that India is buying new fighter planes, a nuclear submarine and an aircraft carrier; Vietnam is shopping for submarines; and the U.S. is soon going to provide the Philippines with another warship. Anybody starting to notice a pattern here?
We now know that about 4,700 Marines will probably be coming to Guam, and that the additional 3,300 troops will likely be rotated among bases in Hawaii, Australia, the Philippines and possibly Iwakuni on one of the Japanese main islands.
So far, so good, but the same reliable Japanese news services have also informed us that the reason why Washington plans to reduce the number of Marines assigned to Guam from 8,000 to 4,700 is that our island could be subject to a “catastrophic attack” in the event of hostilities with China.
Given the air and sea superiority of U.S. forces over those of the Chinese, that could only mean a nuclear strike.
And what, exactly, would that mean for Guam?
If you have the stomach for knowing such things, there is a website that allows you to choose anyplace on Earth using Google Maps, then select one of several types of common nuclear weapons, press a button, and see what the blast, heat and fallout effects would be. No doubt the folks at Andersen and the Naval Base have much more precise modeling tools, but it at least gives us a rough idea of the damage that would be done.
If we assume one DF-31 140 kiloton warhead (apparently standard issue on Chinese ICBMs) were to strike around the center of Naval Base Guam, we find that the pressure from the blast would probably do significant damage as far away as the middle of Asan, and the heat effects would reach to around Asan Beach Park. But if our normal east or northeasterly winds prevailed, most of the immediate fallout would go out to sea.
If another one hit Andersen Air Force Base, the pressure effect would reach to around the flea market, the heat would take out most of Yigo, and the fallout would drift all across most of the northern part of the island, down past Barrigada Heights and the Micronesia Mall.
And that isn’t even considering the long-term radiation that would poison much of our environment.
My point? Just that the geopolitical situation in the Pacific is something that all of us need to take very, very seriously. If the worst should ever happen, Guam will once again be in the heart of the storm.