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HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 17) – The new commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific said Sunday that tensions over Taiwan are a factor in the military buildup of Guam but that the U.S. is working hard to ensure hostilities don't erupt.

Adm. Timothy Keating spoke during a weekend visit to Guam. Keating said the U.S. was working with China and Taiwan to avert any conflict over the island.

"Our dialogue with the Chinese and Taiwan emphasizes defensive posture on the part of Taiwan and the lack of any offensive posture, hopefully, on the part of China," Keating said. "We watch carefully every day."

Beijing says the self-governing island is a renegade province and has threatened to invade if Taiwan declares formal independence. The U.S. is committed to defending Taiwan if Beijing attacks.

The U.S. Air Force and Navy have been increasing their presence on Guam for several years amid a broader push to shift planes, ships, and forces to the Pacific as the region grows in economic and military importance.

The Navy moved three nuclear-powered attack submarines to Guam's Apra Harbor in 2002. Two years ago, the Air Force started rotating F-15 fighter jets and B-2 stealth bombers to Andersen Air Force Base from the U.S. mainland and Alaska. The base is also home to B-52 bombers.

Later this year, workers will break ground on a US$52 million complex that will host four to six Global Hawk unmanned spy planes.

The Marine Corps, meanwhile, plans to move 8,000 of its forces to Guam from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.

This is aimed at reducing the U.S. military presence on densely populated Okinawa, where residents have long complained that American troops occupy too much of their land.

The transfer of the Marines helps the U.S. as well by freeing Washington from potential political objections if Tokyo were to disapprove of how the troops were used in conflicts outside Japan.

Keating earlier got an aerial view of the land where Marine housing is to be built when he circled the island in a helicopter. The admiral's visit to Guam was part of a weeklong Asia-Pacific tour that included stops in Tokyo and Seoul.

Moving the Marines, and thousands of their family members, to the island from Okinawa may have the biggest impact on the small island's economic and social life.

It will likely add some 35,000 people to Guam's population of just 170,000, including family members moving to Guam with the Marines and workers who will likely need to move to Guam to build new facilities.

The U.S. and Japanese governments plan to spend at least US$10 billion to move the Marines over the next decade.

Pacific Daily News

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