There are several consequences that have come about from the United States going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. One consequence is that China took the opportunity to build up its military as thousands of Americans, defense contractors, and innocent civilians died or sustained injuries in very violent and extended wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Part of China’s growth is in its naval buildup, where more surface ships and submarines have been and continue to be constructed. Part of the reason for all this activity is that China seeks to secure permanent advantage throughout its near seas’ region to influence geo-economic and geopolitical events, also enlisting auxiliary and coast guard vessels for support. China remains intent on permanently contesting American military primacy in the Philippine Sea and the greater Western Pacific region, to complicate future American responses to a Chinese assault on Taiwan.
The massive American military buildup in Guam, Northern Marianas, and Philippine Sea is in part a response to China’s rise. American-led multilateral training exercises, rotations, and related actions currently taking place are tied to efforts to strengthen regional deterrence.
A threat to Guam and the NMI
China has the capability to successfully attack Guam and the NMI. It has all kinds of missile weapons systems that it can use from the sea, land, and air. If China decides it wants to take back Taiwan, it will simultaneously seek to prevent the U.S. military from rapidly projecting force from the Marianas to counter an attack against Taiwan.
What makes this scenario most challenging for the United States is that a Chinese attack against Taiwan may prompt Japan to enter a war alongside the United States, which could quickly escalate into a regional hot war.
Second, Guam is not fully protected from incoming missiles launched by China from the air, sea, and land, putting our people at risk. The entire Marianas Islands’ population remains without a hardened nuclear bomb shelter structure to go to should our island chain be attacked.
Third, the Marianas Islands lack a comprehensive missile defense system that would ensure incoming medium to long range missiles could be shot down.
Fourth, Guam and the Marianas are particularly dependent and vulnerable to damage that could be inflicted on undersea cable communications links that are used by the United States that include infrastructure tied to national security such as the HANTRU-1 undersea cable, which connects the Pentagon’s missile defense range facilities in Eastern Micronesia to Guam. All undersea cables going through Guam remain crucial physical nodes that must be protected because of modern-day digital communications and connectivity requirements.
Yet Guam and the Northern Marianas are uniquely positioned to support American grand strategy disproportionately at a tremendous cost
It is in the American national interest to prevent one nation in the region from becoming too powerful in the maritime space, able to challenge America directly because of the immense wealth and natural resources found throughout the area.
The main thrust of American military activity in the Marianas is designed in part to enable the United States to conduct operations that are long-range, using manned and unmanned resources, nuclear-powered attack submarines, offensive military surface vessels, information, and subversion as needed.
Coastal areas off Saipan provide support to the Pentagon with regards to prepositioning surface vessels that carry military supplies for use in possible military contingencies in the Western Pacific and Asia. The northern islands act as key areas to train for unconventional war and small unit operations.
Unlike American military forces, U.S. allies such as the Philippines, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong configure their militaries for near region conflicts, not for conflicts to be fought halfway around the world. Because of this, Asian military objectives are not necessarily focused on preparing to go to war with China because nations in the region are looking to sustain balance and rapprochement with neighboring nations, including China.
This divergence in objectives remains a fundamental challenge for the U.S. in the region. This stress factor has also placed a tremendous cultural, environmental, linguistic, and social burden on the Chamorro people of the Marianas, who have had no real final decision authority on the massive American military buildup taking place throughout our ancient island chain.