US building up Guam base

Local residents fear for their safety as the US turns Guam into a military hub.

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    The island has become the lynchpin of a new US military strategy

    The US is spending billions of dollars and moving troops in the Asia Pacific to strengthen bases in outlying US territories as part of a new defence strategy.

    The Pacific island of Guam, previously considered a glorified refuelling base, has taken on a new importance to the US since September 11, 2001, and is currently being turned into a military hub.

    The build-up in Guam is expected to cost $15 bn, with almost two-thirds of it going towards relocating 8,000 marines from the US base in Okinawa, Japan.

    But the base in Guam, the most western territory of the United States, is not reliant on support from a foreign country, like those in Japan and South Korea.

    New strategy

    The US navy patrols the Gulf off Guam to
    protect US oil interests
    The island has become the lynchpin of a new military strategy designed to face any war scenario.

    The F-16s fighter jets sitting at the island's Andersen air force base are part of a rotational squadron, and just one aspect of the military build-up.

    On the apron, old but still operational B-52 bombers, which unleashed terrifying bombing missions in Vietnam and Iraq during the first Gulf War were standing by.

    The US outpost will see a whole array of the latest military hardware including nuclear-powered Trident submarines which can fire Tomahawk cruise missiles and unmanned Global Hawk spy aircraft.

    By next year, the base will receive the latest state-of-the-art F-22 fighter jets, reflecting Guam’s strategic defence position in a volatile part of the world.

    Analysts say the Guam build-up was all about a "message of deterrent through strength" directed at North Korea and China, which has been almost doubling its military spending in recent years.

    Lieutenant general Daniel Leaf, deputy commander of the US Pacific Command, said: "We are here to provide military defence and to deter aggressive activities by any group, terrorists or national entity... We want peace but we are also committed to overall well-being of the pacific community."

    Locals 'terrified'

    Exclusive report

    Watch Al Jazeera's report on Guam residents

    But local residents are not convinced that the US has their interests at heart.

    A small group of Chamorrus, Guam's indigenous people, think that military developments on this tiny island make them a potential target.

    Rumbo Chedo, a Chamorru activist, said his biggest concern were his children's safety.

    "The whole of al-Qaeda and terrorists know that the military is moving here and expanding themselves," he told Al Jazeera.

    Debbie Quinata, another Chamorru activist, said: "I think we really need to look at this picture and who are the terrorists because at this point they're terrifying us, they’re terrifying me, they’re terrifying my family."

    In its global "war on terror" the US deploys fast patrol boats to protect oil platforms in the Gulf and to safeguard dangerous waters stretching from Taiwan to the Philippines.

    For the US, the formidable combination of air and sea military power is enough to stop Asia from becoming another nightmare scenario like Iraq.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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