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MELBOURNE, Australia (Oct. 2, 2002 – Radio Australia)---The U.S. Navy says it will base nuclear-powered attack submarines on the Pacific island of Guam for the first time, a step emphasizing the growing importance of Asia to the United States.

The USS City of Corpus Christi, a Los Angeles class attack submarine with a crew of 150 sailors and officers, will arrive at the U.S. possession this month and will be followed by two other submarines before year's end.

The attack submarines are designed to pursue and destroy enemy warships but in recent years have become much more versatile with an ability to carry long-range cruise missiles for use against land targets.

The Navy's announcement came as the U.S. Air Force considered possible increases in its presence on the island, located three-quarters of the way from Hawai‘i to the Philippines.

Gen. William Begert, commander of Pacific Air Forces, wants to put bombers, fighters and other warplanes on Guam because of concerns about China's growing military reach.

U.S. defense officials say the moves are in line with a Pentagon push to give the military a more visible forward presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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