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Source saying 3,000 troops may go to Hawaii questioned

By Brett Kelman HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 2, 2012) – A Japanese newspaper has released an anonymously sourced report stating that the Pentagon may reduce the Guam buildup by 3,000 Marines, but an expert on military affairs said it is difficult to weigh the statements without knowing who said them and why.

Denny Roy, who is a senior fellow at the East-West Center think-tank in Hawaii, said it is "very unlikely" that the anonymous source cited by Kyodo news service is a U.S. Department of Defense official.

The recent Kyodo news article reported that an anonymous source said the Pentagon was considering shifting 3,000 of the 8,000 Marines who are meant to move from Okinawa to Guam – to Hawaii instead.

The change was prompted by concerns that Guam is too geographically close to China, and could be the target of a catastrophic attack, Kyodo reported, citing unnamed sources.

That doesn't sound like a military official, Roy said, because the military would be hesitant to bluntly portray China as an adversary. Even if the source is from the military, they are likely expressing a "disgruntled, minority view," Roy said.

[PIR editor’s note: Guam Democratic Senator Judith Won Pat says scaling back the scope of the build-up "makes sense." Pat says, "because we were saying that this is all going to happen so fast and there's no way the government or Guam or the military will be able to get the infrastructure all in place to make sure this happens," she welcomes the possibility of the U.S. government rethinking the build-up.]

And even then, the source said the Pentagon was only considering the shift.

"The military considers all kind of things that never see the light of day and would probably shock the average member of the American public," Roy said.

"You would think that, if the original problem was how do we lighten the burden on Okinawa, that several wide range of possibilities would be considered, perhaps including Hawaii, unless it was felt that Hawaii is simply too far away," Roy said.

The fact that Guam is closer to the Asian-Pacific rim has advantages and disadvantages. China has the technology to send missiles to Guam or Hawaii, but Hawaii is a less accurate shot, Roy said. Also, the farther a missile has to travel, the more time that American forces would have to intercept it with defense technology, Roy said.

Nothing new

Sen. Judith Guthertz, who is chairwoman of the Legislature's committee on the buildup, said yesterday that there was nothing new or surprising in the Kyodo story.

Military officials have been saying since 2010 that the number of Marines meant for the island might shrink, and Guam has been in missile range for a decade, Guthertz said.

As China flexes its military might, the Pentagon obviously is exploring its option in the Pacific, including recent plans to move Marines to Australia or increase troop activity in the Philippines, Guthertz said.

It would make sense if some Marines go to Hawaii – where they have a large base already – while a quick-responding force stays in Guam, she said.

"The Marines will tell you... that Guam is important because we can respond quicker to any emergencies than Hawaii," Guthertz said. She said "there are a lot of pluses for a smaller number of Marines on Guam."

Guthertz said a smaller contingency of Marines – like somewhere from 3,000 to 5,000 – would carry much of the same economic benefit of the proposed buildup without the same strain on infrastructures.

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