Saturday, November 14, 2009

‘Guam deserves more attention’

‘Guam deserves more attention’

Friday, 13 November 2009 04:39
by Jude Lizama | Variety News Staff

GREATER attention is what deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs Derek Mitchell believes the island [Derek Mitchell] merits in light of the pending military buildup. That is what Mitchell told media before addressing the Guam Community and Economic Development Forum yesterday at the Sheraton Resort in Tamuning.

Mitchell said, “There are 20,000 (more) Americans who are going to be living here,” he emphasized. “This will be their home. This is American territory. This is American soil. We ought to be taken care of,” he said. “You don’t want to put American soldiers somewhere they’re not going to feel comfortable.”

“As American soil, Guam deserves greater attention,” said Mitchell who presented an “Overview of Guam’s Role in Asia and the Current State of the Guam Build Up” at the University of Guam-sponsored event.

Mitchell said though he believes people already enjoy the island, there will be efforts to “make sure that the integrity of Guam is maintained, the quality of is maintained, and ideally even develop further.”

Personal interest

Mitchell informed the forum audience that number two in charge at the Pentagon, William J. Lynn III, has taken a personal interest in the entire Guam program and other factors associated with the transfer of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to the island.

The deputy assistant further stated that the pending move “will lead Washington to recognize this is a strategic location that requires strategic focus, and that means everything. Not just inside the fence, but through the people of Guam…a place that showcases to Asia, American military, and Americans more broadly,” he added.

To facilitate the diverse range of issues and inter-agency coordination need for a successful buildup, Lynn personally oversees the activities of a Guam oversight council that hopes to bring order to a very complex realignment strategy – the largest in U.S. history.

EIS and Japan

While Mitchell has admitted to having not read the controversial draft environmental impact statement, he did say it would be a matter for the oversight council to delve into as he is sure it will get a lot of attention in Washington.

Additionally, as President Obama starts meets with the new Japanese leadership, Mitchell said the matter of moving the Marines and the air base at Futenma in Okinawa should not impede the plans for Guam.

“Right now, the government of Japan is in that phase of wanting to discuss this with the [U.S.] government. I’m confident that we have a process that has just been announced two days ago, in place that we’re going to have close consultations in private to ask questions of each other,” he said. “We will, in an expeditious fashion, come to a resolution on this that is satisfactory to both sides.”

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