US to stage world's largest anti-terrorism exercise on Guam
Mon Feb 19, 3:21 AM ET
The world's biggest anti-terrorism exercise will be held this year on Guam, underscoring the Pacific island's growing importance to Washington.
Exercise TopOff4 is part of a series of large-scale manoeuvres established to strengthen the United States' ability to respond to terrorist attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.
US Coast Guard commander in Guam, William Marhoffer, said the TopOff4 exercise would be bigger than last year's Valiant Shield war games, in which the US mobilised 30 ships, 280 aircraft and 22,000 military personnel.
"It will be bigger in some ways. Valiant Shield was a military exercise. It was a show of force. It was the first time we had three carrier strike groups in combined operations in the Pacific since the Vietnam War.
"Top Officials (TopOff4) is a domestic counter-terrorism exercise ... it involves the intelligence communities, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Defense, the US Coast Guard."
The exercise is expected to centre around a maritime terrorist attack.
US Vice President Dick Cheney is to visit Guam later this week.
"This exercise highlights Guam's strategic value and will show the world that we are prepared to defend our island and our nation from any threat of terrorism," Governor Felix Comacho said in his State of the Island address.
Guam and neighbouring US territories including the Northern Mariana Islands are considered by the US as strategic locations in the Asia-Pacific region.
Guam is home to one of the largest US military naval bases in the region and 8,000 marines will soon be relocated there from Japan.
The island, with a population of 170,000, is banking on the US military buildup to bail it out of its economic woes.
The US and Japan are spending 15 billion dollars on the relocation of the marines from Japan, which is expected to further boost Washington's military strength in the Asia-Pacific.