Marianas as a diplomatic destination
The U.S. China competition is well underway and the next several years will be crucial as both nations seek to secure their place as the world’s leader in economics, technology, information, artificial intelligence, and finance. China is positioning itself to be the strongest regional military power in Asia, as it expands its economic and trade influence throughout and beyond its near seas sphere of influence. The United States desires to maintain its worldwide military and economic position of advantage and is now heavily focused on the Pacific-Asia region at levels not previously seen.
Much of this competition has forced major change in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, mostly tied to military matters and telecommunications. The cost of increased militarization throughout the island chain has been catastrophic for our already rare ancient Chamorro environmental and human resource corridors. Other costs of militarization include upward pricing pressures on housing, food, utilities, and the overall cost of living. But some may not realize that East Asia, the western Pacific, and Micronesia are core American imperial interests, driving the military buildup in the region.
China seeks to become the world’s largest economy using its exporting power, technological diplomacy, and domestic consumption to get there. China has almost four times the number of people as does the United States and maintains assertive pathways toward forging regional economic relationships with many of its neighbors. This approach cannot be underestimated or overlooked because crafting deeper inter-dependencies with regional countries affords China greater opportunities to build stronger alliances than would otherwise be the case.
China is ahead of schedule with its overall military buildup. The United States continues to far outpace any other nation with its full suite of military and support capabilities, but this may not last. In the Asia-Pacific region, America’s core allies work on regional cooperation through multilateral military exercises. Guam and the CNMI, for better and for worse, will continue to be used extensively for multilateral and American inter-agency tactical and strategic training, weapons and fuel storage sites, and logistical support, that will produce additional environmental damage to our region.
Potential miscalculations will continue to persist
The strategic competition between the U.S. and China may introduce increased instances for miscalculation that could lead to hot war. Potential miscalculations can arise in almost any kind of situation ranging from freedom of navigation operational mishaps, to piracy, to spying, to at-sea accidents, all within the First Island Chain.
An attack on Taiwan by China represents one scenario that would create the conditions for hot war escalation. The U.S. would surely respond to a PRC attack on Taiwan. Taiwan, however, has a variety of topographical and population size challenges that would make it very difficult for the Chinese to secure a quick hot war military victory.
The United States may not be able to successfully defend Taiwan because of these same complex factors and geopolitical miscalculations. If a hot war does break out, Guam and the Northern Marianas will be placed at highest risk because of the concentration of military assets on-island and the ability of the United States to project military resources from our island chain. The Chinese have the capability to also initiate a sea-based or ground-based launch of intermediate range ballistic missiles targeting Guam.
Diplomatic destination—the Marianas
What’s missing in this recipe are discussions about diplomacy and the power of negotiations to help avert hot war in the region, and to entertain ideas that put bilateral and multilateral communications guardrails in place. The Marianas media places emphasis on many things including local and national politics, sports, COVID 19, tourism (or the lack thereof), entertainment, death announcements and crime, but doesn’t talk about how Guam and the Northern Marianas can become an international diplomatic destination.
I’m not talking about having JRM host events on base, or discussions sponsored by the admiral. I’m talking more about building on the foundations of past visits made to Guam’s Chamorro and villager communities by folks like the late senator Ted Kennedy, former U.S. president Richard Nixon, and to a lesser extent former presidents’ Ronald Reagan and even Harry Truman, but with a public and diplomatic focus and objective. I’m talking about the governors of Guam and the CNMI, the legislatures and communities, putting Guam and the CNMI on the international diplomatic mission destination map using current facility infrastructure resources.
The power of example
If Guam can be a place for international running and swimming events, martial arts, baseball, softball, soccer, rugby, and military training exercises, it can also be a destination to host major international and multilateral diplomatic events. The same or similar goes with Luta and Saipan.
By hosting international diplomatic events, Guam and the CNMI may be able to create new inroads to discuss and share information on COVID 19, health care system delivery, human rights injustices, climate change, denuclearization and non-proliferation, international drug trafficking and crime, food security, cultural security, energy security, film, music, artificial intelligence, technology, and commerce, in tandem with American national government representatives.
Nation states in attendance will also be afforded opportunities to showcase their main diplomatic and domestic challenges and successes in an American colonial setting, while also being given the platform to consider partnerships with the Marianas and the Chamorro people that have not been previously identified. Establishing the Marianas as a regional diplomatic destination will give the American president, the American diplomatic corps, our Chamorro Pacific Islander civilization, and foreign leaders reason to come together.