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Remote isle is 173 miles north of Saipan

By Ferdie de la Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune) - Senate President Pete Reyes said the U.S. military is interested in Pagan, a volcanic island located 173 nautical miles north of Saipan.

In an interview, Reyes said Brigadier General Philip M. Ruhlman, commander of the U.S. Air Force 36th Wing stationed at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, during a courtesy meeting at the Legislature on Tuesday confirmed that the military is interested in Pagan for training purposes.

Reyes said the military is looking at Pagan as possible training ground for simulated war exercises.

The senator said Ruhlman assured that the progress of the military’s plans in the region are going to be shared with the CNMI leadership. He said during the meeting, Ruhlman briefed the lawmakers on the Air Force’s plans and what they are doing in the region.

"But they are not instrumental in the active deployment of the Marines over to Guam," Reyes said.

He said majority of the questions raised by lawmakers pertain to what is in store with the CNMI in the mobilization of 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 family members from Okinawa to Guam.

Reyes said the legislators also asked as to what extent those deployment would impact the CNMI because the Commonwealth is interested about the economic side of that deployment too.

Reyes said Ruhlman assured that he will bring the concerns to Rear Admiral Douglas Biesel, the commander of Joint Region Marianas.

The senator said Rota is very concerned about encouraging the military to use the island for rest and recreation considering that Rota passed the casino gambling initiative.

"There will be gaming there plus the fact that they have excellent golf course. Rota could be a good destination, it’s very peaceful," he said.

Reyes said Tinian is also asking the military’s plans.

He said he is aware that there is an effort to try to reconstruct the dock on Tinian for joint use of the military and residents.

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