Sabotage and attendant risks to the Marianas


The war in Ukraine is something that fellow Chamorros may want to follow closely. As most may know, a key bridge was recently attacked and damaged by Ukrainian forces in the fight taking place against Russia. The bridge, called the Kerch Bridge, is a structure with tremendous symbolic and strategic significance to the Russians, who claim the act to be a Western-sponsored sabotage carried out by the Ukrainian special services community. The portions of the bridge that were hit were used for automobile and rail traffic. The bridge is considered a vital supply and infrastructure platform critical to Russia’s efforts in prosecuting the war in Ukraine.  

This incident that took place in Europe brings to mind the idea and potential risks of sabotage, which is something that should be of highest importance to our Chamorro people and village residents for a variety of reasons. 

Sabotage is an important topic of discussion for our Chamorro people because the Mariana Island chain is vulnerable to sabotage in ways and in degrees that are potentially more harmful to our Pacific Islander civilization due to the lack of adjacent landmasses and resources near the Marianas. In other words, being physically isolated from large landmasses poses additional risk factors should acts of sabotage occur. 

Food supplies
Food supply matters are of utmost importance to our Mariana Islands chain. Most of the food that is available throughout the island chain has been and remains imported from the United States and/or selected parts of Asia. Island ports and airports are therefore key strategic assets to receive food for all residents of the Marianas and for the military. Without these port infrastructure components, food supplies would be cut off, endangering the lives of our families and friends. 

The island chain simply doesn’t produce enough food locally to adequately meet total daily demand for any period of time. This constitutes an island security matter, and thus a national security vulnerability to thousands of people. 

The total seaport infrastructure throughout the island chain is vulnerable to sabotage in a variety of ways. Without a fully functioning and protected seaport, island chain, residents would not be able to sustain the same quality of life that they expect and deserve. 

The military also uses the ports throughout the island chain for operational and logistical support reasons. Because our island chain is smack in the middle of the Deep Blue Pacific Ocean continent, it remains a most vulnerable region for thousands of citizens. 

Precisely how effective are the security check systems in place at all seaports? Can the ports screen all materials that could be chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons-related? If not, why not? What is the precise and specific percentage of goods that go unscreened? If dangerous materials are found, what processes are in place to handle and properly manage these substances? What measures are being taken to address how the port will screen goods that go unnoticed? 

How many ways are there to operationally disable the cranes? How many ways are there to damage the fuel infrastructure, container holding areas, and firefighting systems at the ports? How can the ports be rendered inoperable? 

Do we know and understand all the port contingency plans in place that will ensure seaport ecosystems will remain operational should there be one or a series of terrorist attacks against these key infrastructure nodes? 
Is Guam or the Northern Marianas ready to handle a major oil spill or multiple major oil spills at one or all of the seaports? If so, how so? 

Just how secure are the airports throughout the Mariana Islands? Just how robust are the current operating rules and operational security processes designed to protect aircraft on the tarmac, as they sit at the gates or elsewhere on airport property? Just how secure and protected are the planes from sabotage? 

How secure are the fuel storage facilities at our airports? How can these be better protected from potential sabotage? How are fuel transmission systems vulnerable to sabotage? Can the various components of airport fuel systems be easily compromised, damaged, or destroyed from acts of terror? What kinds of layered defensive and protective measures are in place to better protect and secure fuel inventories, transmission lines, airplanes, and all terminal and cargo spaces? 

What airport operational security systems are in place to detect nuclear, biological, radiological, or chemical substances that could be used to blow up an airplane, or various airport infrastructure facilities, access roads, or control towers? How protected are airport employees and passengers from one or a series of chemical and biological attacks or hostage-taking situations?

What gaps need to be filled to completely ensure that the seaports and airports of the Mariana Islands are safer than we generally understand? 

As the United States focuses on the war in Ukraine, China continues to make leaps and bounds in supercomputing, artificial intelligence, and military expansion while partnering with the Russians in bilateral military exercises, and Maritime Belt and Road Initiative work throughout the Pacific. Non-state parties and perhaps state-sponsored or affiliated entities intent on harming and/or sabotaging American territory, infrastructure and citizens, pose potential risks to our Mariana Islands. 

Sabotage is a dark topic but one that should be openly discussed, especially throughout our island chain, which is now home to one of the world’s most important American military training regions on Planet Earth.

Rick Arriola Perez | Author
Rick Arriola Perez is a U.S. military veteran who has worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, the Bank of Hawaii, and the government of Guam. He holds several degrees including ones from UCLA and the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Rick is passionate about national security and foreign affairs in the Pacific Asia region and runs a blogsite called Guam Affairs at For more information, contact Perez at

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