Guam is the U.S. unincorporated territory and military (base), which lies in the western part of the Pacific Islands. Guam serves as the lynchpin for the U.S. influence in the Pacific, is became the flashpoint between two nuclear powers of the region i.e. United States of America and China, due to its strategic geopolitical position. Nevertheless, Guam remained a conducive place for the U.S. naval basing as well as the territory to provide shorten and strategic edge for Washington to sustain her hegemony and influence in the region. The aim of this research paper is that, could the U.S. sustain her hold over Guam while facing the Chinese mesmerizing and clear empirical indicators of its military forces, particularly its navy, air force, missile technology, and its rapidly expanding marine corps, as the arbiters of a new global order—one that stands opposed to U.S. national interests and threat to its close allies in the region.
U.S.; China; Guam; Pacific Island; Unincorporated territory; Battlefield.
Historically the Pacific region remained one of the spectacular lands of the world, by dint of its uniqueness and dynamic characteristics such as its geostrategic location amidst in the gigantic Pacific Ocean and its natural resources, transformed the territory into the laps of great powers of the world. The Asia Pacific having forty-nine global economies, three out of which are the world's largest economies, namely the United States, China and Japan (Crisostomo, 2013). Geo-graphically and culturally this particular territory divided into three sub-regions i.e. Micronesia, Melanesia & Polynesia (Meick, Ker, & Chan, 2018).
Guam is a little Island close to China, considered as a potential threat in the way of the Chinese dream of re-establishing the Sino-centric region. Such desires of Beijing could put the island into the battlefield of two economic giants of the world. Secondly, whether such a tug of war scenario would reach to nuclear warfare, is now a big question for many among us.
The ‘Treaty of Paris’ was one of the harbingers for the region, which ended the Spanish-American war and gave the legal authority of Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam to the hand of U.S. Particularly, ‘Guam’ when the U.S. took control, so she decided, the entire island could be the ‘U.S. Naval station or base’ and did not consider the civil and political rights of the masses of Guam, and thus once again pushed the territory into the quagmire of dictatorship after the promulgation of the treaty. Guam is one of the unincorporated territories of the United States in the 21st Century. Its representation in the congress merely non-voting and the people of Guam neither cast their vote in any presidential election of the U.S. (Nogues, 2017).
These unincorporated territories, which entombed the U.S. belief of propagator of democracy in the modern world. Here in this research paper, we have pointed out the land of ‘Guam’, which is still one of the U.S. modern-colonies, is densely populated having a total population of 160,000, enjoying its total GDP US$ 35,400, comparatively higher than other developed islands in Micronesia such as Northern Mariana and Kiribati.
Figure 1: The Pacific Islands Region
Underpinning facts behind Sino-US Rivalry
The pursuit of supremacy becomes the overriding and essential goal of every statecraft in the world. Realists strongly believe in the selfish nature of statesmen who always think about national interests. In order to fulfill their interests, statesmen always in a struggle to increase their power by all means i.e. economy, natural resources, major trade routes, strategic waterways and many others. The coming generation could be affected by the developing competition of supremacy, which is sparked by the major proponent of preserving peace and advocator of democracy in the world, i.e. the U.S. While on the other side China also second to none, its crisscrossing attitude in the region become cephalalgia for the American in the region, owing to its vested interest which led to the persistence threats of its navy, which will very quickly encounter the U.S. navy and air force to push out from the coastal shelf of the mainland of Asia in near future.
The basis of the conventional wisdom of the United States for decades has been the world’s most advocator of human rights, freedom of speech, and fostering peace. But the U.S. holding sixteen territories other than fifty states, eleven of these have neither proper representation in the U.S. congress nor any protection in the constitution of their rights and liberties (Crisostomo, 2013).
Due to a lack of resources along with the rapid growth of the human population, the world becomes a battlefield and everyone feels a threat from one another. The statecrafts fulfilling their own national interests even at the cost of others’ security and survival. The scarcity of natural resources compels every statecraft of the world, which they fear how to fulfill the need of their masses. In this connection, the geopolitics of the Pacific region covets the international community: to capture the land, hold the untapped resources of the region, which would ultimately repeat the old history of World War II (WWII).
In spite of the tale of colonialism, vulnerable geographical location and the harsh effect of the three powerful waves of conquerors such as Spain and then Japan and now the United States of America, the people of Guam also called Chamorro enduring to maintain and manage their identity, language, and pride under the unincorporated status and the world’s last colony in the 21st Century (Rogers, 1995).
Today, in the era of post-modernism, Guam remains one of the most congruous terrestrials for military and naval basing and its people (also called Chamorro people), have been deliberately distant positions, which shows despicable and the relic of colonialism in the 21st Century. The non-sovereign political status attracted the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to increase its military activity and have made colonial occupation over Guam since 1898 (Nogues, 2017). The territory had enjoyed short Japanese occupation from 1941 to 1944, which led the island into extensive military forces and equipment buildup by the U.S.
Thus, the region has become a hot-bed. Following the warmonger attitude once again ignites the new style of warfare between Sino-US in the region, after more than 70 years, when the U.S. and Japan had clashed in WWII. Similarly, other regional factors also exist and disturbing the potential and peaceful environment of the region. One of the potential concerns, which affect the peaceful co-existence of the region is the jingoistic and unpredictable behavior of President Kim Jong-Un. While, the main concern remains in the lexical of International Relations’ experts, political pundits and with other analysts that: Could Guam be protected from any mishap owing to its long distance away from Washington i.e. 920 miles (12,746 km)?
North Korean position on Guam Island
As the North Korean President, again and again, warned that his next target would be Guam. Similarly, North Korean state-run media had already warned that Kim Jong-Un threat to launch ballistic missile on American territory ‘Guam’. It shows vulnerability to the U.S. Navy, where they control more than half of the land i.e. (544 km) for its naval bases and other facilities (Lendon & Berlinger, 2017).
Similarly, U.S. has plenty of strategic military basis in Japan and South Korea, but Guam is more strategic assets for the U.S. possessed an enormous air force base on Guam just four hours and 2,131 miles (3,430 km) away from North Korea, 1,678 miles (2,700 km) from the East China Sea (ECS) and 2,315 miles (3725 km), from South China Sea (SCS), it remains a possible flashpoint for catastrophe in Asia- Pacific. More so, the U.S. President Donald Trump himself openly said, that North Korea must not show her muscle towards the U.S. Otherwise, she will be met with ‘fire and fury’.
Besides Washington and Pyongyang lined up “eyeball to eyeball”, and at loggerhead son Guam, Beijing is also taking interest, where she extended its diplomatic efforts not only aimed to expand its soft power, providing economic, humanitarian, cultural assistance and disaster relief to the regional states of Pacific Islands, but to guarantee and materialize its dream of rejuvenation under the epic project of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)--- which suggested that China has geostrategic interests, and desire to establish its naval base in the Pacific (Nogues, 2017).
The prevailing uncertainty, costs, and risks of the possible conventional tussle between the two major powers i.e. U.S and China, would shape the preferences of the region for long-term competitive strategies. Therefore, asymmetric negation and strategic ambiguity in emerging new domains of warfare—space, cyberspace, near-space, and underwater—will increasingly characterize future conflicts in the Indo-Pacific. Nonetheless, the U.S. suspiciously noticing the Chinese military and political circles of some of its islands reclamation projections in the South China Sea (SCS).
The economic, political and military rise, Beijing adopted a new strategy, where she trying to minimize the U.S. influence and fomenting its interests and ensure the prosperity of its partner states in the region. It is therefore, Beijing needed a friendly environment and cordial relationship with the world community, which would help her more recognition and influence in the international fora. Officially seven Pacific nations recognized China, while another six still recognized Taiwan.
Likewise, the (Pacific) Islands remain the world undeveloped and an independent region. Therefore, China is the only key stakeholder, which secured the highest ratio of investment and assistance. In terms of Chinese diplomatic and security headways, she is participating in every high- and low-level meeting of the regional organization even if it is neither a member nor an observer. Further, Beijing also increased its diplomatic efforts and high-level visits to propagate and ensure its mantra of China’s peaceful rise.
Figure 2: China and its allies
China’s Rise and the U.S. Interests in the Pacific Region
The Chinese growing influence in the Pacific is posing direct threats to the U.S. interests in the region. Particularly, the Chinese progress in Micronesia creates ultimate vulnerability to the U.S. Naval bases in Guam. Because most of the maritime expenses have been under the controlled of the U.S. navy exists in [Guam], which remains central to the U.S. ability to project its power in the western Pacific. As some of the analysts and Chinese scholars are of the view that China is trying to establish its naval bases in the Pacific and dwindle the U.S. military presence in near future because the region is rising among the Chinese priorities and making commitments and promises with the regional states to uplift their economic clog for the sake of its own leverage. Alike, the official statements and policy documents of Beijing included that the Pacific Islands as part of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, and BRI is just one component, which unveiled by President Xi Jinping in 2013 (Nogues, 2017).
Indeed, the island's regional geographical significance and interests of some of the states are growing, so Washington rises its military might against one of the regional concerns-the belligerent attitudes of North Korea. Nevertheless, Washington has been stuck with its old assumption that the U.S. would always want Guam as a staging base, which secures its strategic interest in the long run (Crisostomo, 2013). The foregoing debates imply that Guam remains a beacon and one of the bulwarks of the U.S. strategic prowess in Asia.
The question currently facing by the Washington that “how the territory [Guam] can be saved, from Beijing’s rapidly expanding influence of its “sinology” following by its advance sophisticated military arsenals in the Western Pacific, particularly its mature precision-strike missile (PSM) regime, that ultimately given the gesture of new military-technological battlefield. In spite of this, the Chinese Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) technology is one of the strategic weapons, which described by the erstwhile U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Eric MacVadon, compared ASBM with the U.S. nuclear capability which she acquired nu in 1964. Similarly, some defense analysts mentioned that this new technology could prognosticate a major shift in the balance of power in the region. They further clarified that the shift could raise the risk of misadventure, miscalculation, intensification in the strength of military, deterrence failure, inadvertent warfare, or an intractable security dilemma. Mr. Euan Graham, Executive Director of La Trobe University in Melbourne, says that “this is a pre-conflict type of shadow game, a geo-political non-war version of Island-hopping. The Pacific has become a strategic asset once again for the first time since WWII” (Johnson, 2017).
The U.S Economic Interests in the Asia Pacific
The Asia Pacific is the home of 49 global economies. The three big economic powers such as the U.S., China and Japan are among them. Some of the trading partners of Asia Pacific significantly contributing to the U.S. economy. If we cursory glance over the last three years of Sino-US and Japan trade volume, so the U.S. services surplus with Sino-U.S. trade of goods and services with China in 2018, almost reached to 660 billion U.S. dollars composed of 120.3 billion U.S. dollars of total export value and 539.5 billion U.S. dollars import value. Similarly, according to the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. goods and services trade recorded with Japan was total 297.6 billion in 2018, composed of totaled exports 120 billion U.S. dollars, while only 177 billion U.S. dollars imports were done.
Other important trading partners in the region were the sheer contributors in the U.S. economy, as the U.S. trade noted with member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – included the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Burman, Brunei, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam – totaled 178 billion U.S. dollars recorded in 2010. Moreover, overall the region accounts for 56% of total U.S. trade, including two substantial trade allies in the region are South Korea and Australia (Crisostomo, 2013).
While on the other hand, China is also seeking great power position—insisting its geopolitical role and influence in the region by leveraging its global economic power and advancing military capabilities convincing regional actors aimed to establish Sino-centric posture in global politics.
After came into power by Xi Jinping in 2012, the trade between China and the Pacific region increasing day by day. Major Chinese companies properly working on trade side with Pacific nations and have greatly ballooned to more than $10 billion U.S dollar, but its influence is still neither like U.S. nor Australia.
Strategic Interests of America in Guam
Guam has been playing its role as the lynchpin in the Pentagon strategy to affirm its influence in the Pacific Region. The already maintained and exercised naval and military corps of the United States in Okinawa, could easily transform to Guam owing to any vulnerable or contingency situation. The U.S. key naval and air forces are currently existed in Guam and captured 29 percent of its total land has also been one of the major hubs for submarine communications cables lies between the western part of the U.S., Hawaii, Australia, and Asia (Herman, 2017). Similarly, Guam has long served as an important and strategic territory for its military forces, most notably during WWII, the Cold War, the Korean War and last but not least in the Vietnam War. The “Asia Pivot” policy of the then U.S. president also one of the historic high and an important announcement of the Obama Administration in 2011, which he intended to address the U.S. national interests or “rebalance” its resources towards the emerging Pacific region (Nogues, 2017).
The U.S. Strategy of ‘Rebalancing’
Instead of its economic as well as strategic significance, instability in the region, prevailing day by day, which compelled the U.S. authorities to “rebalance” its attention and take concrete measures against the growing threats posed by its regional states.
Tensions in the region noted by its surrounding area such as China’s emergence and its claims over some of the disputed territories, including South China Sea (SCS), further added with the North Korean selfishness and warmonger behavior escalated the regional concerns and disturbed the peaceful co-existence by dint of the North Korean suspicious ballistic nuclear agenda, have been among the main contributing factors which attracting the U.S. attention.
The U.S. has considered that this is the high time to “rebalance” its concentration and re-engagement policy with regional states without any discrimination and assure them that the U.S. is still an ally and sole guarantor and has not turned away from the Asia-Pacific region.
The U.S. regional commitment is underlined through the five defense MoUs, such as Mutual Defense Agreements (MDA), which the U.S. still maintains with its regional partners in Asia-Pacific such as the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Australia New Zealand, and Japan. At the bottom of these defense pacts, the U.S. military conducting joint training and repositioning of the forces aimed at surveillance and protect the region from any miscalculation. Similarly, the U.S. also keeps formal nexus with other regional allies such as Taiwan, India, Singapore and Indonesia (Crisostomo, 2013).
From the last seven decades U.S. National Defense Strategy by linking with the U.S. oldest fighter command ‘U.S. Pacific Command’ –a force which ensures security and preserving peace in the region. The United States Pacific Command (USPACOM), has been a force and primary warfighting mission agency, which is responsible and committed to protect and defend the United States and its allies’ interests and cope with the situation that could lead to war and crisis in the region. This mission is also endorsed by the U.S. military in support of a peaceful and prosperous Asia Pacific region. This distinct region [Pacific] falls under the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), which is liable for executing operational aspects of the “rebalance” (Smith, 2008).
Another significance motto of the “Asia Pivot” announcement was to protect its allies in this particular region as the U.S. has been the sole guarantor since the collapsed of the forty years bipolar World Order (Nogues, 2017). Although, the strategic objectives of Washington in the region remains the same, what it has been since 1898, when the U.S. took the control of the Philippines and used it in the naval war against Spain — owing to the preservation of a balance of power and its influence in the region and beyond. The United States of America believes that its security begins and ends in this particular region. Therefore, the U.S. forces fought in Korea and Vietnam; the U.S. signed the Australian, New Zealand and the United States Security treaty (ANZUS) in 1952, aimed to maintain security environment of the Pacific region, which could not be maintained properly and suspended after the 1980s, the U.S. also established security treaties with Japan and South Korea, where the U.S. deployed its forces in the Asian theater, along with other security commitment with Taiwan and the U.S. strategic relations, which has been forged with Southeast Asian states particularly India (Challaney, 2012).
Last but not least, the strategic move of the Obama Administration as he announced “Asia Pivot” in 2011, to secure the U.S. interest and cope with rogue states in the region. USPACOM consequently managed almost 146 military exercises, which built and strengthened the U.S. partnerships with its allies and further improved the security environment of the region. All these efforts and rendezvous were specifically aimed to fetch the strategic intent of the rebalance.
Chinese Approach to Cope with U.S. Interests
Currently, China has been enjoying dominant position over East China Sea (ECS), South China Sea (SCS) and beyond, owing to its well-publicized military buildup along with its fleet of fighters, operates a daily coercive campaign and other nonmilitary steps, which ultimately creates threats and complications for the operations of U.S. forces there and defends its allies in the region. China is mainly focusing on the Pacific for the sake of its military interest. Following the visit of Xi Jinping to Fiji in 2014, signed an MoU, which includes major bilateral military cooperation in the future. Here, we can put forward the view of Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford that “China has become the very long-lasting challenge for the region” by the dint of its coercive attitude towards other nations, especially for the U.S. Dunford further argued that the “seek and hide” drama between the U.S. and China fomenting more and more. “It is very common for PRC aircraft to intercept U.S. aircraft”. Sometimes, even Chinese aircraft challenge the U.S. Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ), as China has upgraded its aircraft H-6K “Bodger” bombers to 1,000-mile range air-launched cruise missiles, often are testing in the U.S. defense zones near the territory of Guam. It has been observed that the Chinese military and its navy are more advance and globally active than before, so the Chinese forces gunning to hold much more territory, which will fulfill its future need and also supporting for basing in the Pacific region (Copp, 2017).
One of the U.S. officials emphasized that PRC is going to attack Guam in the near future and the U.S would not allow being happened such hidden design of the PRC. The foregoing discussion implies that the U.S. wants to remain as a Pacific power and does not want to allow anyone, who can show their muscle and disturb the U.S. interest in the region. The U.S. would fight to an end if anyone can do that because one of its officials mentioned ‘our future economic prosperity is obviously linked to our security and political alliance in the region’ (Copp, 2017).
Chinese Strategic Goals
In 2018, the Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Mr. Wu Qian argued that the race of military advancement has been begun between Washington and Beijing. Thus, Beijing put into work its DF-26, Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile - dubbed “Guam Killer” by media and defense experts. Similarly, in its national anniversary, Beijing showcased the new and more advanced hypersonic ballistic nuclear technology for the first time, which easily reach to the United States in 30 minutes, as well as breaching the existing anti-missile shields installed by the U.S. in the Pacific Ocean. Some of the hypersonic glide vehicles was one of lethal and strategic weapon, which displayed in during the parade led by President Xi Jinping to ink the country 69 anniversary. Along with others, DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile, which could carry up to 10 nuclear warheads, the world longest target achieving missile technology inspired spectators of the event and obviously another jolt nerves the U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington after 9-line.
The second most strategic objective of the Chinese regime is surveillance satellite capability. In spite of racing the U.S. in space tech, China is building anti-satellite technologies, where the U.S. air force has no equivalent so far. Beijing has progressively achieved space capabilities over the past decade and making it more sophisticated and efforts to expand them further (Cliff, Ohlandt, & Yang, 2011).
On the basis of the aforementioned pieces of evidence, we can argue that Chinese super-fast military manifestation is valuable to the country’s offensive strategy, which clearly aimed to prevent the U.S. installed military strategic bases near China.
Why is China Making Lethal Weapons?
Instead of five to six thousand miles’ huge distance of the Pacific Ocean, which separates the U.S. boundary from west coast China, U.S. leaves no stone unturned and indulged ample bases inland of Pacific. Beijing perceives Washington bases in the Pacific, particularly in the Philippines and Okinawa, which gave the first chain of island bases in the region --- that could become a strategic chain for the U.S. military power projection and could easily be sued to launch an attack on China owing to its already installed short-range warplanes. Country can project its military power across such a distance only if a country has a trans-pacific-spanning chain of island military bases, allies or any hosts. The growth of U.S. military projection got momentum in the mid-nineteenth and actually concluded after WWII, including the major role played both by Japan and South Korea, being as clients and hosts of the American military power projection in this regard.
By dint of the U.S. military development in the region is obviously prevailing grave concerns for the Chinese authority, where the People Liberation Army (PLA) plans to totally crush Washington military bases in the region is just because of the enduring socio-economic, internal political decay and environmental challenges that permeate Beijing external foreign policy on the stake and let to the insecurities of its sovereignty, territorial integrity, which finally extended to its core national interests ‘rejuvenation’.
The PLA aims not just to compete with the U.S. military prowess but to want to drastically defeat and vanish its influence in the region. Following the conclusion of California based think tank Mr. Scott Herald, “China wants to defeat not merely compete”.
Competing and defeating the U.S. military prowess is a means of achieving strategic and political objectives, which has set by the Chinese regime for the People Liberation Army (PLA).
In the last few decades, none of the states dare to show her muscle towards the traditional status quo power of America; especially in the Asian continent. But the Chinese navy operates bombing runs targeting towards the U.S. territory of Guam, which has been considered by the U.S. naval forces the most worrisome and potential threat in the Pacific, even the North Korean nuclear warheads. Guam lies on the Northside of the equator and the West of the International Date Line in the Western Pacific Ocean. The attractive factor of the territory is the strategic location and tourism spots which compel the tourists to visit the land. The land receives almost 1.5 million tourists per annum, which makes its economy worth approximately US$ 3 billion. The second most essential factor of Guam is obviously its water, which it relatively allows Beijing to take control of the country and its vast water resources, which is still vital strategic importance for the U.S. By dint of this geopolitical paradigm shift, the U.S. hegemony is no more the overriding phenomenon, particularly in East and Southeast Asia; which the U.S. maintains since the Cold War. Similarly, in the past two decades, there is an emerging and competing power, which is knocking the door of global politics and seeking space to indulge herself not just to compete but to defeat and intercept the existing overriding influence of the [U.S.] in the region. As some of the scholars of the view, that “everything is going to be changed, but change can’t be changed”. In so far, in the field of International Relations (IR), strategists also accept the theoretical assumption that ‘International System’ working in a hierarchy. Thus, the transition could always occur in the rise and fall of the dominant/ hegemonic status of the states in the world arena. Similarly, words quoted by Asian Scholar Lowell Dittmer, ‘America’s Asia is becoming China’s Asia’. Due to this notation, the mode of fear widely prevailing on both sides of the equator. The fears of Washington owing to the rising influence of Beijing, which it has been—one of the mantras, that is effectively the driving emotion behind the U.S. disposition in the Pacific Region. Such a development could pose indirect challenges to the U.S. defense interests and those of Australia and New Zealand as well, which are the key U.S. partners in the region (Meick, Ker, & Chan, 2018). Some of the U.S. officials are of the view that China has also taken several other non-military steps that have been observed as attempts to make it much more challenging for the U.S. to operate there and protect its allies in future. Owing to the hostile attitude of China and its unprecedented and growing naval maneuvers in the western Pacific, South Pacific, and Indian Oceans; the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas; the Arctic and Antarctic; and, lastly, in the Atlantic Ocean. These actions are clearly observed by the United States as an indicator of China’s future malign intentions and actions (Copp, 2017).
Consider these dilemmas, Washington, a new consensus is finalized to give tough time and stand up in front of China, and trample its further influence in the region because the U.S. has long been a Pacific power whose interest is inextricably linked with Asian political order, security and its economy.
While as per Beijing is concerned, so she fears just because of the Pentagon new policies and the belligerent attitude of President Donald Trump. By all indications, this new presidency is likely to be more aggressive to resists and will be more powerful to stop the erosion of the U.S. position in the region (Crisostomo, 2013).
However, peace efforts are required in the region that depends on the will of each stakeholder to cope with regional disparities in addressing endemic regional security issues; the prevalence of traditional security quandaries in the flashpoint of Sino-US over disputed territories of the region. Also recommended the proposed options by the then U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, where he advocated us that, Asia Pacific region must be categorized by an approach towards peaceful resolution in all high and low-level disputes, an area of open access to all domains, free and open access to commerce, a just and international order that upholds the rule of law and (Crisostomo, 2013).