08 Sep 2013
- By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor - email@example.com - Variety News Staff
THE recently concluded Guam-U.S.-Asia security roundtable held on Guam that convened national security and defense experts see the Marianas as the fulcrum of realignment and reinforced the objective of having the Northern Marianas as a training base.
Tinian local historian and mayor’s office chief of staff Don Farrell, who attended the regional security roundtable “U.S. Forward Deployed Forces and Asian Security: A Strategic View” at the Hyatt Regency in Tumon, Guam, said, “It was made clear that there would be a Marine Corps base on Guam with about 5,000 Marines and 1,200 dependents, which will provide a considerable economic windfall to Guam, when and if Congress funds the plan. On the other hand, the CNMI will be a Training Base with rotational troops.”
The roundtable was organized by GUASA, Guam-U.S.-Asia Security Alliance, a Guam-based, military-buildup lobbyist group.
Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Tinian Mayor Ramon M. Dela Cruz represented the Northern Marianas.
As to having the Northern Marianas as the military training ground, Farrell said there might be a small number of troops stationed on Tinian for maintenance and security but no units with barracks.
He said there will be a smaller direct economic impact after the construction of the ranges.
The closed-door roundtable discussion held Sept. 5-6 brought to Guam experts Carl W. Ford, Patrick M. Cronin, Lt. Gen. Wallace “Chip” Gregson, Bryan Wood and Craig Whelden, among others.
Cronin is a senior advisor and senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.
Lt. Gen. Wallace C. Gregson, Jr., is senior director, China and the Pacific at the Center for the National Interest.
Gregson Jr. retired from the Marine Corps in 2005, having last served as commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific.
Whelden, a retired U.S. Army major general, is currently executive director of Marine Forces Pacific.
Wood is director of the Pacific Division, Plans, Policies and Operations Department of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Ford is a political scientist, consultant, defense administrator, and specialist on Asian affairs.
Farrell said the senior policy advisers said that the China, Korea, and Indonesia problems pose a threat to security in the area and that U.S. Presidents since Nixon and the U.S. Congress have recognized the need for a larger American presence in the Pacific.
“They mentioned that the current global economy and the Syria situation are complicating factors. However, all seemed confident that the buildup in the Marianas will happen, in time,” said Farrell.
Asked by Variety if the defense and security experts talked about the future of the Guam-CNMI visa-waiver program, Farrell said the question of Guam and CNMI Visa Waivers for China was addressed.
“It would appear that over time the visa waiver policy for Guam and the CNMI will become one and the same, as with other federal policies, such as minimum wage and immigration,” he added.
Farrell shared with Variety that the forum opened with some of America’s highest ranking experts on foreign policy reviewing the history of the Pacific War, the role the Mariana Islands played therein, and the impact that the war had on America’s strategic policy in the Pacific during the Cold War from Vietnam to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Farrell said Governor Inos, Mayor Dela Cruz, and Guam lawmakers listened closely as respected civilian foreign-policy experts discussed the Marianas as the “fulcrum of realignment,” the “springboard to the Pacific,” and “front porch in the Pacific.”
He said that such phrases as “America as a strategic enabler” and “America as a resident of the Asia-Pacific Region” were reinforced with dialogues on America’s alliances with Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and Australia relative to the developing economic and military influence of the Peoples Republic of China in the region.
“It was encouraging to know that these men and women clearly understood the value of the strategic location of the Marianas in the Western Pacific, and appreciated that the people of the Marianas had a right to participate in the formulation of the policies that will affect their future,” said Farrell.
What Farrell found “most disconcerting” at the roundtable was the lack of a national strategic policy for the Pacific.
“However, it was comforting to hear Carl W. Ford say that a conflict with China is not, and should not be, a foregone conclusion, and that the work of policy makers should be to create a military deterrence and an economic policy in the Pacific that will prevent a China conflict, just as U.S. strategic deterrence and economic policies prevented a U.S.-Russia armed conflict during the Cold War,” he said.
The second and last day of the roundtable discussion, Farrell said, focused on the role of the Marianas in Pacific policy planning.
Wood and Whelden talked about the military plans for the Marianas.
“The map of the Mariana Islands Range Complex and the description of how the Marine Corps buildup may be achieved within the MIRC was an eye-opener for all,” said Farrell.
“From this, one could not walk away without a feeling of reassurance that the Marine Corps and U.S. Navy are doing everything they can within the restrictions imposed upon them by the objective of their task and the National Environmental Protection Act to work cooperatively with the local civilian community both north and south of the Rota Channel, as their plans are studied and formulated,” he said.
Farrell said this meant more room for dialogue between the U.S. military and the CNMI “on how current and future leased lands on Tinian, Pagan and Saipan might be utilized, but not until after the EIS process is concluded in late 2015 or early 2016.”
Further, Farrell said the most poignant part of the security conference was when Carl Ford moderated the session on Guam’s future role in the region.
In the Q&A part, Farrell said Guam Senator Aline Yamashita “spoke passionately on the injustice being done to the thousands of U.S. veterans in the Marianas who have returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.”
He said she spoke of the need for the treatment they earned and deserve as patriots.
At the end of the conference, Farrell said 10 of America’s most influential men and women involved in formulating American foreign policy would return to the mainland committed to helping the men and women of the Marianas who have served in uniform get the services they need and they would keep the Marianas in mind in their continuing dialogues with senior policymakers.
Farrell also recognized the efforts of the GUASA organizers Joe Arnett, Carl Peterson, Gerald “Gerry” Perez, John Thomas Brown, Juan Carlos Benitez and others who made the conference possible.