Friday, June 29, 2007

US Allies to use the Northern Marianas for Training

US allies to use Marianas for training
By Gemma Q. Casas
Variety News Staff
friday 29 june 07

THE U.S. and its major military allies in the Asia-Pacific region — Australia and Japan — will be using air, sea and land areas on Guam and the Northern Marianas for training.

This month, the U.S. defense representative to Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau began the early stages of preparing an environmental impact statement/overseas environmental impact statement in connection with the range complex’s proposed update and active use.

This range complex, which covers Guam and the Northern Marianas, was last updated in 1999.

This month, American and Japanese pilots held a two-week joint aerial live bombing exercises on the uninhabited island of Farallon de Mendinilla, about 45 miles north-northeast of Saipan.

This is the first time that Japanese pilots tested their high-tech war planes known as F-2 outside of Japan since the prototypes were made in 2000.

Lt. Donnell Evans of the U.S. Commander Naval Forces Marianas public information office said the military is not conducting any new training but simply wants to update the study of the ranges amid plans to more actively use them.

“The training that we’re doing now is sometimes obvious to the public and sometimes not obvious,” said Evans. “We’re looking at training on currently controlled-(Department of Defense) lands but the difference is this is an update to the study of the ranges. We’re a little bit behind because of budget and financial (constraints).”

“(The Mariana Islands Range Complex) is very important. It allows us to get quality training. Not just for the U.S…. These same training ranges will be available to our allies. It helps us in relationship building. It helps us in being proficient in working with the different military and it also helps us be proficient in what our business is,” he added.

Besides Australia and Japan, the navies of Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, among others, may also use the ranges for training, said Evans.

Among the proposed upgrades include activities for underwater mine warfare and antisubmarine warfare, underwater training range, new small arms and mortar ranges and military operations on urban terrain.

Northern Marianas is claiming rights and control over its 200-mile submerged lands. But the U.S. claimed the islands surrendered its rights on such when it became part of the nation through their Covenant Agreement in 1976.

During the recently held scoping meeting on Saipan, a public document showed that the Mariana Islands Range Complex has provided the U.S. military with a safe testing and training environment for over 100 years.

“The land, air, and sea areas of the Mariana islands are irreplaceable. These areas are important to all people of the Marianas, including members of the U.S. military services who call the Marianas their home,” the document stated.

“The ranges and facilities of the Mariana Islands Range Complex are unique because of their location in the western Pacific where deployed forces can maintain warfighting proficiencies. This range complex is also in proximity to Forward Deployed Naval Forces, which also need to maintain their warfighting proficiency,” it added.

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