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America’s second in command says role to increase

By Brett Kelman HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Aug. 23, 2011) – Vice President Joe Biden reaffirmed the United States' promise to be a "Pacific power" during a recent trip to China, and the second-in-command has since moved on to Japan, where he is likely to discuss the realignment of military bases.

Both of these issues have a direct link to Guam, which is expected to absorb about 8,000 Marines being moved from Japan in the coming years.

"The United States – and I realize this occasionally causes some discomfiture – but the United States is a Pacific power, and we will remain a specific power – a Pacific power," Biden said, while speaking at Sichuan University on Sunday.

Biden said Asian stability maintained by the United States had allowed China to focus inward and grow over the last 60 years. In the years to come, America's focus on this "critical region," according to Biden, will only grow as Asia plays an even greater role in the global economy and international affairs.

[PIR editor's note: Bilateral cooperation between the US and China in regards to the Pacific appears productive in 2011. Earlier in July, the US government hoped to collaborate with China on ways to assist Pacific countries with waste and energy problems.]

Biden also spoke about the United States and China's shared interest in keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iran and North Korea. Because the superpowers have a shared stake in Asia, American and Chinese generals should be communicating "as frequently as our diplomats do," Biden said.

Biden's speech comes in the wake of a cost-cutting recommendation from Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, who has proposed removing all funding for the transfer of marines from Okinawa to Guam.

Coburn proposed the cuts in a massive debt reduction plan, where he argues that troops in Guam are less essential than they were during the Cold War.

Although Biden's statements in China don't talk about the Guam buildup specifically, they are opposite Coburn's defense reduction plan, and Biden's stance is not new.

During a trip to Tokyo in 2009, President Barack Obama said the United States is a "nation of the Pacific." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in October of last year that America's role in this region was growing.

[PIR editor's note: US government and military officials recently embarked on a tour through the islands of Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands as a show of good faith and commitment to cooperation and development in the region.]

Gov. Eddie Calvo said Biden's remarks showed the Obama administration hasn't changed its stance on the buildup and that he was looking forward to "more fruitful" talks between governments.

"It's always encouraging to hear national leaders like Vice President Biden acknowledge the importance of the Asia-Pacific region," Calvo said in a statement. "This shows we have allies and like-minded people in Washington, D.C. The Obama administration's commitment to the 'Pacific power' will help push Guam's agenda forward."

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo said yesterday that Biden's remarks "spoke to the importance" of this region to U.S. security, and that she agreed with policies that would "open China and other emerging markets."

Since giving his speech, Biden has left China for Japan, with a single-day stop in Mongolia in between. His meetings with Japanese officials began yesterday, but more details should become available in the next few days

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