Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said the Marianas—the CNMI and Guam—play a critical role in the United States’ strategy in the Asia-Pacific region, especially on the issue of national security.
And with the growing tension with North Korea, the Marianas could play a vital role in the U.S. government’s plans to protect the mainland from threats that would arise in the region.
Torres said this was among the issues that were discussed during the 902 talks and then proposed in the report submitted to then-President Barack Obama. The 902 report is now being reviewed by Congress.
Torres said the U.S. military’s presence in Guam and Japan is why he is not concerned about the growing threat of North Korea. He believes U.S. forces in the region are capable of protecting this side of the border.
“We have military forces in Guam and Japan. I know there are also some ships and [aircraft] carriers in the Sea of Japan. That’s why anything that is coming here is being taken cared of by our president, even before it comes close to us,” said Torres.
North Korea test-fired several ballistic missiles in late April that later failed. It also held its annual military parade displaying new missiles and launchers as a show of strength.
Torres said he is not that all concerned despite all of what’s going on in Pyongyang. “We have our military forces and I’m confident in our armed forces, confident in the protection they could give our borders.”
The 902 report also outlined the Department of Defense’s planned military activities in the CNMI and the U.S. Air Force’s divert airfield and exercises on Tinian.
Both sides of the 902 panel—the CNMI side and the federal government side—agreed, and recommended, creating a CNMI-DoD Coordinating Council that could ensure diplomatic, economic, and military components in the Asia-Pacific region.
The U.S. military forces provide security and stability in the Western Pacific region, a key element stated on the 902 report.
There’s also some tension between the U.S. and China, and further escalation could affect the China parole program—a source of the CNMI’s current tourism market, with visitors accounting for 30 to 40 percent of arrivals.
China President Xi Jinping has met with his U.S. counterpart, President Donald Trump, last month. The current general secretary of the Communist Party of China and new South Korean leader Moon Jae-In have agreed that their common goal is to stop North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.