Missile Defense System May Permanently Be Based In Guam

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THAAD battery placed in 2013 to counter threats from N. Korea

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 26, 2015) – Guam is close to getting a permanently stationed missile defense system, said the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.

The chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, made the statement at the end of a congressional delegation's three-day Guam visit yesterday. He didn't give a time frame during the short interview as the delegation boarded a bus to the airport.

The delegation visited the Naval and Air Force bases on the island as part of an Asia-Pacific trip meant to look into missile defense and the broader realignment of U.S. troops in the Pacific, including Guam.

"I am struck by how developed it is; and how militarily friendly the community is, but also about the growth," said Rogers, who visited Guam for the first time in his 12 years on the Armed Services Committee.

The delegation visited Andersen Air Force Base, which hosts the temporarily stationed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defense system on Guam.

The Army's Air and Missile Defense Command sent the missile defense system to Andersen after North Korea made Guam-specific threats in April 2013.

"We're very happy about the THAAD battery being here," Rogers said. "And it is close to being permanent."

Rogers said his Guam visit made him realize he needs to do more to help the U.S. military's defense capabilities on the island.

And Congress needs to help Guam's civilian community cope with the impact as the military presence here expands, he said.

"One of the things I'm taking away is that I need to do more to protect the island with its strategic significance and defense capability -- and also we need to help the community here with this growth," Rogers said.

North Korea is developing and has paraded a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile and an intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of reaching Guam and the Aleutian Islands, testified Vice Admiral J.D. Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, at a hearing in March before the Senate counterpart of Rogers' subcommittee.

Lt. Gen. David Mann, commanding general of the U.S. Army's Space and Missile Defense Command, testified at the same Senate subcommittee hearing in March that the THAAD deployment on Guam "enhanced our ability to protect U.S. interests in the region." An additional missile defense sensor was also deployed to Japan, he said.

Asia-Pacific realignment

The delegation's trip is focused mainly on missile defense in the region and a discussion on the broader rebalance efforts, to include the realignment of Marines to Guam, Delegate Madeleine Bordallo's office stated.

Bordallo, who's also on the House Armed Services Committee, showed the delegation around Guam.

Rogers said he's also "very happy with the construction taking place" to support the planned transfer of several thousand Marines to Guam.

Guam and the U.S. are jointly paying for an $8 billion tab to move about 5,000 Marines and their 1,300 dependents from Okinawa to Guam. The reduction in U.S. troops in Japan is part of a broader realignment that reduces U.S. troop presence in crowded Okinawa and redistributes them to Hawaii and Australia, in addition to Guam. The Obama White House has also announced plans to beef up security to U.S. defense and trade lanes in the Asia Pacific.

The defense buildup on Guam has been moderate, states Shirley Kan, a specialist in Asian Security Affairs, in a Congressional Research Service report in November.

"China has concerns, suspecting Guam's buildup to be directed against China," Kan's report states.

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