Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Guam's Billion Dollar Road

$1.25B road project detailed
Proposed highway would cut through Manengon
By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
May 31, 2007

Guam's future billion-dollar highway, which is a piece of the military buildup puzzle, likely will run across largely undeveloped hills and valleys of Chalan Pago, Yona and Piti, according to a tentative map from the Navy.

If the idea evolves into an adopted plan, the highway would start near the point where Routes 10 and 4 meet in Chalan Pago, according to a Department of the Navy Guam planning document, which was still at an early stage and was labeled "notional."

The $1.25 billion highway would provide the military with an alternative access that links Andersen Air Force Base in northern Guam and the Navy base on the southern side of the island.

The Air Force and Navy bases use Marine Corps Drive for a main link, but the road has had a history of gridlock during serious accidents.

In May 2006, Air Force Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf, deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said in an interview that when the island's military population grows significantly, the highway would be needed to "move both people, supplies and equipment from north to south, south to north on the island, whether it's for training or to deploy out of the harbor."

"And we want to do that with minimal impact on the community and expeditiously. The current road structure doesn't really allow for that very well. So that's an area we believe we'll have to invest in," Leaf said.

The largest chunk of the $15 billion military buildup on Guam involves building housing, training and other facilities for the 8,352 members of the U.S. Marines and about 9,000 dependents who must relocate from Okinawa to Guam by 2014.

The Marines' move to Guam is expected to cost about $10 billion, of which $6 billion will be paid by Japan.

The 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force is moving out of Okinawa as part of the U.S.-Japan agreement aimed at beefing up security in the region and consolidating U.S. military installations in Japan to free up land for return to the Japanese.

But while Japan is helping to pay for the Marines' relocation, such as for barracks and "quality-of-life" facilities, the highway project is expected to be 100 percent funded by American taxpayers, according to an itemized list of cost sharing between Japan and the U.S.

Real property values soaring
The anticipation of local economic growth stemming from the military buildup already has sent the values of Guam homes, condominium units and land parcels soaring.
"I am amazed at how much the island has already benefited from the initial phases of the buildup," said Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, in a speech to the Guam Chamber of Commerce yesterday.

She mentioned that in some cases, real property values have increased 300 percent over the past few years.

"The economic investment I see here on Guam will eclipse the boom we experienced in the '80s," she said, of the era when Guam was a magnet for Japanese investors who financed construction of many Guam hotels.

"Rising property values means equity for the residents of Guam and that translates into wealth," she said.

The congresswoman's speech did not mention the $1.25 billion highway project, but she said that even before the Marine-related construction kicks in, the military buildup has begun.

The fiscal 2008 defense spending bill includes $300 million in military construction projects for Guam. The bill has passed the House, and it will work out a version that will also be acceptable to the Senate.

Fiscal 2009 funding for military projects on Guam will hover around $500 million, and more than $1 billion a year starting in 2010, Bordallo said.

For Guam investors who are planning to buy land in areas near the future billion-dollar road project, they can do so now, but their investments might not turn profits any time soon.
While the construction project for the Marines' relocation is expected to begin three years from now, or around July 2010, the road project will start years further into the buildup, according to a military time line.

The military highway construction might start in the fifth year into the buildup, or around 2015, based on the preliminary time line.

But before any of the major buildup construction projects can begin, environmental impact assessments must be completed.

That process could take about two years, according to a military estimate

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Military Buildup and Political Status

Guthertz wants to return to discussions of Guam's political status
by Jean Hudson, KUAM News
Sunday, May 27, 2007

Guam's quest to change its political status hasn't made headlines, and it may be because the island community is more focused on the relocation of thousands of Marines and their dependents years from now. One senator suggests its all the more reason to bring political status talks back on the table.

Senator Judi Guthertz (D) said, "Here we are, we're going to face the relocation of 8,000 Marines, probably 35,000 other people that will be coming here to support the Marine mission, which include federal employees and their dependents, H-2 workers (some of whom who may be able to bring their dependents if their engineers or technical folks), folks who will be coming from the other islands looking for jobs, and we haven't done anything on political status."

The freshman policymaker says a member of the Military/Civilian Task Force, the group that's in the know about the anticipated military buildup was disappointed to learn that the final draft provided to the Navy for consideration in the environmental impact statement did not mention Guam's future political status, self determination, and self-government. "Our indigenous people are going to be overrun by a completely new population and they're desire for an improved political status will just disappear. They'll never have a voice again," she continued. "They'll be out voted, as soon as these folks gain residency and are able to vote on Guam, They'll be out voted!"

Guthertz says with all the talk and planning centering the relocation, this is the opportune time for the territory to make a case for political status change. Last week Guthertz sent a letter to Governor Felix Camacho urging him to include a section on political status. Recalling the intent of the correspondence, she said, "I basically said this is the time. There will not be another opportunity to do this. This is the most opportune time to begin this discussion and you must include it in your report and you must be aggressive about it."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Justice for the Marshall Islands

Please sign the Marshallese survivors' petition and circulate widely --it
only takes 3 minutes at the most. Just double click on the link below and be
patient and wait for about a minute or so, the petition will come up. You
have to preview your signature first and then officially sign on.

The US-Japan Committee on Racial Justice is one of active groups actively
supporting the Marshallese survivors of ERUB (acronym for the 4 atolls of the
Marshall Islands). For the whole month of June, they will be in Washington,
D.C. to lobby for the Marshallese survivors of the 67 nuclear tests and the
Petition for Changed Circumstances. We are half way to our goal of 5,000
signatures; we now have a total of 2,579 signatures. So, your timely support
would be greatly appreciated.

As many of you may be aware, fallout from these nuclear detonations landed on
Guam, as was attested to by Lt. Schreiber who, after the military gag rule
was lifted, apologized to the Chamorro people in 2005 for not warning them of
the imminent danger under orders from his superiors. Moreover, many of the
ships and planes that were used in monitoring the nuclear detonations were
either washed down in Anderson Air Force Base or off Coco's island. Some of
the ships then proceeded to San Francisco Bayview Hunter's Point Shipyard
that remains highly toxic and a Superfund site till this day.

Friday, May 25, 2007

F-16s to Guam

US deploys F-16 warplanes to Guam
Posted at 01:33 on 26 May, 2007 UTC

The US military will deploy 18 F16 fighter jets to Guam for four months from late May.

The military says this is not an aggressive measure and not in response to any particular situation.

It says it's an adjustment that shows the US flexibility in maintaining an appropriate deterrent posture.

The United States plans to move 8,000 Marines and 10,000 dependents from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to Guam by 2014 as part of a global realignment of U.S. forces.

The Reuters news agency says Andersen Air Force Base has had a bomber presence since March 2004.

Guam has had a U.S. military presence to varying degrees since 1898, when U.S. naval forces captured it from Spain

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Funding Approved for Marine Relocation to Guam

Japan approves funding for Marine relocation to Guam
Pacific Daily News
May 23, 2007

2:20 p.m., May 23 — TOKYO (AP) — Japan's upper house of parliament approved legislation today to fund the reorganization of U.S. forces in Japan and help move thousands of Marines from the country's south to the U.S. territory of Guam.

The legislation is now law.

Tokyo and Washington agreed last year on a plan to streamline American troops and give Japan greater responsibility for security in Asia. The deal also envisioned lightening the burden on local communities by downsizing U.S. bases and consolidating troops at other ones throughout the region.

Japan has agreed to pay $6 billion for the transfer of troops to Guam in the Pacific, while Washington has said it will contribute $4 billion.

The prefecture of Okinawa, a cramped southern island, hosts more than half of the 50,000 U.S. troops based in Japan.

"The realignment of the U.S. troops in Japan will contribute to maintaining peace and security in Japan. The realignment is also extremely important to reducing the burden on residents near defense facilities," the legislation said.

Under the realignment plan, the U.S Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Ginowan will be relocated to Nago, both in Okinawa, and carrier-borne fighters of the U.S. Navy's Atsugi base, southwest of Tokyo, will move to Iwakuni in western Japan.

The law, which was passed in the lower house last month, paves the way for local governments hosting consolidated U.S. military facilities to receive state subsidies to expand their infrastructure to accommodate the increased troop burden.

It will also allow the state-run Japan Bank for International Cooperation to give loans to contractors hired to help relocate 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

Under the plan, the bank will give loans and investments to a U.S. company that will build new housing for the Marines in Guam, according to the Defense Ministry. The company will pay back the money with rent it receives.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Port Not Ready for Military

Port not ready for buildup
Businessman: Increase capacity, improve efficiency
By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
May 22, 2007

A Defense Department representative has identified the local government-run seaport as a potential chokepoint in the upcoming massive military buildup on Guam, a member of the local business community said yesterday.

The military buildup -- and its ripple effect on the already robust housing market -- is expected to double the volume of cargo entering through the island's only civilian seaport, which is being run by the Port Authority of Guam.

How island officials will handle the port issue -- and whether their actions will be made in time for the buildup within the next several years -- has an effect on the standard of living of everyone on the island, businessman Carl Peterson said.

Peterson voiced his concern in light of what he called sincere and straightforward comments Friday by Gary Kuwabara from the Defense Department's Office of Economic Adjustment.

Kuwabara is the Office of Economic Adjustment's point man for military buildup issues on Guam and makes periodic visits to the island from Washington, D.C. He spoke Friday after subcommittee representatives of the governor's task force on military buildup gave status reports.

Peterson attended the meeting as a Guam Chamber of Commerce representative, but the comments he made for this story were not made on behalf of the Chamber.

Peterson said Kuwabara had mentioned the need for upgrades to the seaport.

A more efficiently run port ensures on-time delivery of goods for Guam consumers, businesses and government entities, but a major breakdown in cargo movement could lead to shortages and possibly more expensive goods, as was Guam's experience years ago.

With the buildup's expected $10 billion to $15 billion cost, the local community also is expected to see substantial economic growth.
The reason for the urgency, said Peterson of the need to modernize the port's operations and expand its capacity, is that every Guam resident's standard of living will be adversely affected if the port stays stagnant.

All the construction related to the relocation of about 8,000 members of the Third Marine Expeditionary Force and their approximately 9,000 dependents from Okinawa must be done within the next several years.

Based on the agreement between the U.S. and Japan, the relocation must happen by 2014. Japan is picking up about 60 percent of the relocation cost.

According to Peterson, Kuwabara at Friday's meeting of the governor's task force on military buildup said when the buildup is at full blast, 72,500 military supply containers are expected to be shipped to Guam in the span of one year.

Kuwabara could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The port has handled an average of 84,000 containers annually, its management stated.

Based on Kuwabara's comment at the task force meeting, Peterson said the sense he got was that the local government must make enormous changes to bring the port up to speed with the anticipated surge in incoming cargo traffic.

In addition to military supplies, the island also is expected to see a surge in shipment of construction materials to meet the demands of a booming housing market.

Logistics and shipping companies last year said that if one gantry crane breaks down, even before the buildup occurs, the island economy could be held hostage by an equipment malfunction.

Peterson suggested that the Port Authority of Guam should invite the world's experts on running ports to submit proposals for how they can better run the seaport and how much it would cost for them to do so.

The port agency's attempt last year to hand over cargo handling operations to a private operator has failed.

And the port agency board "has not made any determination on what their next step will be" on the privation issue, according to a statement from port management yesterday.

The port management stated: "In the late '90s, when the island experienced its last military buildup, the port was able to handle the increased number of containers."

As for the port's years-long efforts to try to buy a new gantry crane, which moves containerized cargo on and off ships, it's likely the process will take about two more years.

The agency's evaluation committee is reviewing the proposal submitted by the lone bidder for the manufacture and installation of a new gantry crane, according to the port agency management.

The agency stated the estimated time from manufacturing to delivery of a new gantry crane: 18 months to two years.

In addition to trying to order a new gantry crane, the port management stated the agency is "in the process of acquiring new handling equipment to deal with the increase of cargo arriving on Guam."

"We are also currently reviewing our terminal infrastructure to determine the type of operations the port should implement to effectively off load/load cargo onto vessels," according to port management.

And the port agency yesterday stated it is hiring a consultant to update its master plan.

Labor shortages
Friday's meeting also discussed the labor needs for the buildup as well as the private sector's need for more construction workers.

Based on an informal estimate, Guam might need 25,000 additional construction workers to meet both the military and the private construction projects' needs, said David Dell'Isola, a Guam Department of Labor representative, said at Friday's meeting.

The military buildup-related projects will need between 12,000 to 15,000 workers, said Capt. Robert Lee, acting director of the U.S. government office on Guam that coordinates buildup efforts.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Housing Prices Rising on Guam

Statistics show home prices are soaring
By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News

The median price of Guam homes has soared to $195,450 during the first three months of this year, a whopping increase from $170,000 the previous quarter, according to statistics released yesterday by market tracker The Captain Company.

For Guam residents who already own a home or homes, that's a good thing, but for low- to middle-income residents who are still hoping to own a home, the goal will now be harder to reach, said Nick Captain, president of the real estate firm.

The new median price reflects a nearly 100 percent growth from the 2003 median price of $106,000.

But Captain said the new median price has been boosted primarily by sales of higher-priced properties, such as brand-new homes and better-than-average homes.

The new median price of Guam homes, he added, does not automatically mean fixer-uppers or starter homes have doubled their value.

The new median price of Guam homes is about five times the $39,317 annual median income of Guam households when last surveyed in the federal Census of 2000.

Military personnel and their families who are stationed here as well as off-island investors are among the new buyers of Guam homes priced around $200,000 or more.

Only about 20 percent of Guam households earned $75,000 or more in the last Census, and that's the income range for homes around $200,000.

In a booming real estate market, people who already have homes gain equity in their property.

But in the same environment, Captain said, "people who get hurt are the people who haven't yet entered the real estate market."

"I think we really need to see additional housing projects that are designed for the lower- to middle-income type of buyers," Captain said.

Such endeavors, he suggested, might need government participation or support.

"If we don't have (more affordable housing projects) in the next couple of years," Captain said, Guam could start to see social problems associated with people who end up being unable to afford their own homes or rental units.

First Hawaiian Bank Chief Executive Officer Donald G. Horner, during his Guam visit earlier this week, also voiced worry that a rapid rise in Guam's real estate market could squeeze low- to middle-income earners out of their home ownership dreams.

Despite the rising prices of single family dwellings, the number of units sold increased from 182 to 196 homes between the fourth quarter last year and the first quarter of this year.

But not all statistics were robust in Guam real estate.

The median price of condominium units dropped from $115,125 to $90,000 between the two quarters, according to The Captain Company statistics.

At the reduced median price, the number of condo units sold increased from 84 to 119, the statistics show.

Take Action For Henoko

Japan Begins U.S. Base "Pre-survey" against Local Opposition.

Today, the Japanese government set out their "pre-survey" for a new U.S. military off-shore base in Henoko, Okinawa.

At 6:20 this morning, Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels and ships chartered by Defense Facilities Administration's Naha Bureau showed up off-shore at Henoko. Local base opposition groups confronted them with seven boats, one rubber raft and 12 canoes. The Coast Guard proceeded to conduct spot inspections against five of the protest boats, (while their own chartered ships remained un-inspected), and this delayed the protesters' departure from Henoko port for about an hour.

On the sea, the protesters attached themselves to the survey ships in an attempt to stop them. The people called for stoppage of the survey, imploring "do not build a base for killings." In spite of the resistance, survey materials such as iron pipes were placed on the sea bed at several survey spots where the protesters could not allocate enough people.

According to an Asahi news report today, the Japanese Minister of Defense Fumio Kyuma acknowledged the involvement of Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces divers in this activity. Some reports suggested the JMSDF did preparatory work in the middle of the night without being detected by protesters. Kyuma said, "the JMSDF's involvement is correct and the opposition's interruption of the private contractors' work is abnormal."

However, Hiroshi Nakachi, a professor at Ryuku University, warned in his interview with the Okinawa Times that "the fundamental role of the Self Defense Forces is to prevent aggression from overseas, not intervene in domestic confrontations. The people in Japan should be wary of this unchecked expansion of the SDF's activities."

Back on land, around 100 people kept their all-night vigil at the Henoko fish port, shouting encouragement to the protesters on the ocean.

The protesters are calling for more people to come immediately to Henoko to bolster opposition to the base "pre-survey."

Please take action for Henoko!

Hikaru Kasahara (Asian Peace Alliance[APA] Japan)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Guam's Inclusion in Apology Demand

Resolution demands apology from Japan
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
The Marianas Variety

SENATOR Ben Pangelinan, D-Barrigada, is seeking the inclusion of Guam in a congressional resolution demanding an apology and compensation from the Japanese government for the Imperial Army's use of sex slaves ― euphemistically known as "comfort women" ― during World War II.

Pangelinan yesterday introduced Resolution 62, expressing support for House Resolution 121 filed by Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., before the 110th Congress.
Honda's resolution demands the Japanese government formally "acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner" for the Japanese army's coercion of young women into sexual slavery during Japan's colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from the 1930s through the duration of World War II.

Pangelinan said Guam, the only U.S. territory occupied by Japanese armed forces, was directly affected by such "atrocious treatment."

"The people of Guam were subjected to death, injury, rape, forced labor, forced march, and internment throughout the occupation," Pangelinan said.
"It is my fervent hope that my resolution conveys our solidarity with Congressman Honda's House Resolution 121 in ensuring that Guam be acknowledged and recognized also," he added.

It wasn't the first time that a demand for an apology has been raised on Guam. Guam activists have been pressing the government of Guam to force Japan into acknowledging the comfort women issue. But the issue splits the local government.
When former Guam Supreme Court Chief Justice Benjamin Cruz and Sen. Tony Unpingco, then chairmen of the Guam War Claims and Compensation Commission, prepared the war claims report to Congress two years ago, they declined to include the comfort women issue despite demands from some Democrats and the families of sex slavery victims.
Unpingco, incidentally, is coauthor of Pangelinan's Bill 62.

Honda filed the resolution last January, partly to renew pressure on Japan ahead of the closure of the Asian Women's Fund, a private foundation created in 1995. The creation of the fund was seen as a significant concession from Japan, which has always claimed that postwar treaties absolved it of all individual claims from World War II.

By the time the Fund closed as scheduled last month, only a fraction of the former sex slaves had been compensated. The fund compensated only 285 comfort women in the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan, out of an estimated 50,000 to 200,000 women forced into serving in brothels run by the Japanese military.

"I am concerned about conflicting stories that Japan has downplayed this issue and that its new leadership might rescind a 1993 government statement apologizing for its role in running comfort stations throughout Asia," Pangelinan said.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Defending Japan's Constitution

Who will defend Japan's Constitution?
April 29, 2007
Special to The Japan Times

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced at the beginning of April that the government was establishing a "panel of experts" to examine the question of whether to "revise the current interpretation of the Constitution," in order to permit Japan to engage in collective self-defense activities.

This is an outrageous proposition from the perspective of constitutional law, and yet the announcement appears to have been met with little more than a murmur. Regardless of whether one may feel strongly that Japan ought to participate in collective self-defense operations, or that Article 9 should be amended, this latest step in the emasculation of Article 9 seriously endangers the normative power and integrity of the entire Constitution.

First, let us recall that there is already a strong movement toward an extensive revision of the Constitution, in accordance with the amendment process provided for in the Constitution. The government is currently pushing a referendum law through the legislature for the purpose of implementing that process.

While the DPJ opposes the current version of the proposed referendum law in its detail, it is not opposed in principle. While there continue to be voices of dissent in both parties, the leadership of both the LDP and the DPJ seek to amend Article 9 specifically to permit Japan's participation in collective self-defense and other international peace and security operations. If they are able to persuade a sufficient number of both houses of the Diet and the population of Japan, the Constitution will be so amended. If they cannot, then it is the will of the nation that it not be so amended.

Second, it is entirely nonsensical for a government to speak of "revising an interpretation" of a constitution as a matter of formal policy. Constitutions can be revised through amendment, and the interpretations of constitutions may evolve incrementally over time through court decisions, but governments do not "revise" or establish "new" interpretations of a constitution. Interpretation of the Constitution of Japan is the purview of the courts, and the amending process provided for in the Constitution is the sole mechanism for formally changing the Constitution itself.

The amending process of a constitution is set in place both to ensure an orderly mechanism for change, but also to ensure that the pre-commitments to the fundamental principles established in the constitution cannot be too easily changed. The Constitution of Japan provides for a process that requires, in addition to the consent of two thirds of both houses of the Diet, the vote of the people of Japan to endorse any proposed revision. The government cannot short-circuit that process by way of some back-room "re-interpretation."

Which brings us to the third problematic aspect of the prime minister's announcement. Aside from the fact that it does an end run around the amending process, the "revision" study is being conducted by an extra-constitutional body appointed by the executive. Of the three branches of government, the executive is the least empowered to have any say in how the Constitution is to be interpreted. It should be recalled that the Constitution provides that the legislature (the Diet) is the highest organ of state (Art. 41); that the Constitution is the supreme law of the nation, and that no law, ordinance or other act of government that is contrary to the Constitution is valid (Art. 98); and that the courts are vested with the authority to interpret the Constitution and determine the constitutionality of any law, order, regulation or other official act (Art. 81).

It is not the role of the executive to be mandating interpretations of the Constitution, and any action that the government may take on the basis of some new "re-interpretation" may still be held to be unconstitutional and invalid by the courts. The body to which the executive has turned to do the actual work of analyzing the issue of interpretation, is one that is not provided for in the Constitution at all -- the "panel of experts" is an extra-constitutional body that has no authority whatsoever to interpret the Constitution.

Finally, the "revision" that is sought is patently contrary to any reasonable interpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution. Article 9 provides, in part, that "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes." It also provides that the "right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."

Using Japanese military forces, including Japan-based antimissile defense systems and Japanese naval vessels operating with allied forces in international waters, to engage the military forces of other countries when Japan is not directly under attack, can only ever be interpreted as the use of force for means of settling international disputes.

Moreover, Japan would most certainly expect to enjoy all the rights, protections and obligations under the laws of war that belligerents are entitled to under international law in such circumstances, a status that Article 9 specifically renounces. The Supreme Court of Japan has held that while Japan retains a right to self-defense under Article 9, it is limited to only such measures that are for the protection of Japan (in the so-called Sunakawa case).

The Cabinet Legislation Bureau has consistently maintained that Article 9 forbids participation in collective self-defense or the deployment of troops abroad for military operations. For the government to now try to argue that notwithstanding what the Constitution plainly states, and what the courts have said it means, and what past governments have accepted as binding, that Japan can now do the opposite, is to do great violence to the Constitution of Japan.

There is an amendment process for a reason, and it can be used to achieve the objectives of having Japan play a more robust role in the area of international collective security. Careful study leading up to such amendments will also ensure that other checks and balances can be built into the revised Constitution to ensure that there is sufficient democratic accountability and civilian control as Japan engages in more extensive international operations. To try to circumvent that process undermines the entire structure of the Constitution.

If Article 9 can be merely interpreted away, why not other provisions? A democracy allows its Constitution to be undermined at its peril, and the erosion of constitutional controls on a country seeking greater military influence will almost certainly alarm its neighbors.

Craig Martin, a Canadian lawyer and a graduate of Osaka University Graduate School of Law, is currently working on a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania, focusing on the interaction of international and constitutional constraints on the use of armed force.

The Japan Times: Sunday, April 29, 2007
(C) All rights reserved

Guam Included for First Time in Pacific Islands Forum

Guam included for first time in Pacific Islands Forum
by Michele Catahay, KUAM News
Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Governor Felix Camacho, during his recent trip to the mainland, received some positive news at the Eighth Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders in the nation's capitol. Guam's governor will be part of the state delegation to the Pacific Islands Forum, which will be the first time the territory will attend.

Camacho told KUAM News on Monday, "We have always been not allowed to attend even as observers and our argument is that although we are U.S. governors, that we are in the Pacific and we have vested interest in what happens. Decisions that are made out there affect us, so we should have a voice."

The conference in Washington, DC was hosted by the U.S. State Department. The main topic discussed was the impending military buildup and how the opportunities for labor and employment can spill over to the other islands in the region. In addition, the East-West Center out of Honolulu, Hawaii has agreed to conduct a study on the labor opportunities for Guam and other islands in the region.

The fund for the study will come from the Department of the Interior.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Body of John Flores Returns

Body of fallen soldier John Flores returning Wednesday
by Sabrina Salas Matanane, KUAM News
Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The body of U.S. Army Private First Class John D. Flores of Barrigada will arrive home early Wednesday morning. He is the latest casualty from the Marianas identified by the Department of Defense to have died while serving in Iraq. Flores was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division in Germany and died on May 3 in Baghdad of wounds suffered when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire.

Flores is survived by his wife Charlene and daughter Chloe.

Flores' death marks the eighth volunteer serviceman to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend freedom since the war in Iraq began in 2003. In 2006 Kasper Dudkiewicz and Jesse Joel Jesus Castro, both 23, were lost - Dudkiewicz, 23, was killed in Mosul when his humvee was involved in a collision; Castro and four soldiers from his combat unit was killed by an improvised explosive while on patrol in Kirkuk.

Another Chamorro Dead in Iraq

Soldier comes home
By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
May 16, 2007

The body of the latest Guam son to die in Iraq was expected to have arrived home earlier this morning.

Army Pfc. John D. Flores was 21.

He joined the Army in hopes of building a foundation for his young family's future. But Flores was killed May 3 in Baghdad, according to the Army.

He was father to 18-month old Chloe and husband to Charlene, who became the soldier's wife only a little more than a year ago.

The fallen hero will be buried with full military honors Saturday afternoon at the Guam Veterans Cemetery.

Flores's arrival was scheduled for 1:10 a.m. today, confirmed his mother-in-law, Cindy Kazuo.

The fallen soldier also leaves behind his mother, Christine Wertz, and other members of his extended family.

Flores was killed when his unit came under attack by enemy forces.

He is the 10th Guamanian and 18th person from the Micronesia region to be killed since the war on terror began, Pacific Daily News files state.

If you wish to join Flores's extended family in giving him a final good-bye, you can do so during the Saturday morning schedule for paying last respects, the afternoon funeral Mass at Santa Barbara Church in Dededo or the burial at the Guam Veterans Cemetery later that afternoon.

He will be accorded full military honors at his burial.

"We're opening this to anyone who wish him a final farewell," Kazuo said.

Landless Locals

Taman: Don’t Forget Landless Locals
By Emmanuel T. Erediano
Variety News Staff
Monday, 14 May 07

REPRESENTATIVE Candido B. Taman on Friday said he voted against the resolution granting a 25-year lease of public land to Marianas Resort Development Co. Inc. because there are still thousands of landless locals waiting for homestead lots.

Taman, R-Saipan, said the government invites investors but seems to have forgotten homestead lot applicants.

Department of Public Lands homestead division director Jerome K. Aldan said there are 3,489 pending applications for homestead lots.

Applicants who comply with requirements, rules and regulations are granted a 929 square- meter lot for residential purposes.

Although the homestead division still hopes it will be able to accommodate the applicants, records show that lots for 11 homestead projects have yet to be issued to applicants, the number of which continues to increase.

Two homestead projects that started in 2003 have issued lots to 42 applicants.

The projects include the 1.9 hectare homestead project in Kagman IV and the seven-hectare area in Dandan II.

Taman said the government should balance the interests of investors and the local people when it comes to giving out public land.

The Senate and the House of Representatives have adopted a joint resolution granting the approval of MRDC’s request to lease 136.5 hectares of public land on Tinian for an 18-hole golf course as well as a hotel and casino that will be constructed in the next two years.

“If we can give MRDC a total of 1.3 million square meters of public land for its casino operation, why can we not provide our own people with 929 square meters of it for a home?” Taman said.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Guam Leaders Optimistic About War Reparations

Leaders optimistic about WWII reparations
by Clynt Ridgell, KUAM News
Saturday, May 12, 2007

While House Resolution 1595, the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act, made it passed the House of Representatives with a two-thirds vote this week it must still garner a majority of the votes in the U.S. Senate. Two of the individuals who were instrumental in Guam's quest for war reparations discussed the importance of this landmark moment in our island's history.

Senator Tony Unpingco (R) and former chief justice and senator Benjamin J. Cruz were appointed to the Guam War Claims Review Commission in September 2003. The membership was established by Congress to gather facts about Guam residents who lived through the Japanese occupation to help determine whether or not they've been compensated in the same way as other U.S. citizens who were in similar situations. It was in December of that same year when several hearings were held at the Guam Legislature, allowing survivors to share their stories with the Commission about the struggles they had to endure during the occupation.

The Commission then compiled a report acknowledging the suffering and loyalty of Guamanians during the occupation. The Commission ultimately found that Guam citizens did not receive parity when compared to other American citizens who suffered similar hardships elsewhere. Seeing this process and delays in Guam's quest for war reparations, Unpingco remains cautiously optimistic that the Act will make it past the Senate.

He encourages all Guamanians to once again fight for what is right, saying, "We need to have everyone here on Guam to really if they have any influence in the senate to write to them, otherwise the closure will be the same as it was just introduced will die." In fact, HR 1595 did suffer an untimely demise in the 109th Congress, but hopefully won't in the current Congress.

Cruz also remains hopeful about its passage this time around, noting that the compensation levels include the following:

- $25,000 for death, payable to heirs
- $15,000 for rape or severe injury (like a loss of a limb)
- $12,000 for forced labor and other personal injury
- $10,000 for forced march or internment
- $7,000 to all heirs of those persons who survived the war but have since passed away, payable to spouse, children or parents

Said Cruz, "In this bill, the $12,000 has been reduced to $7,000...I think that's where the problem's going to be in this bill if the Senate has hearings and especially the Judiciary Committee has hearings, and they look at that it's going to open up a whole other Pandora's Box of precedence that's my only concern about this bill."

Cruz adds HR 1595 has evolved and probably will continue to evolve while in the Senate, adding that while there are still major hurdles ahead he commends both Congresswoman Madeline Bordallo and former congressman Robert Underwood for their work on the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

New Zealand to Take Advantage of Guam's Economic Boom?

Saturday, 05 May 2007
US wants NZ to join Guam boom

The United States Government is urging New Zealand businesses to take advantage of a planned economic boom on the Pacific island of Guam.

David Cohen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Affairs, said the US is to spend US$14 billion (NZ$19 billion) investing in Guam as it moves marines from the Japanese island of Okinawa to a new base.

Mr Cohen is responsible for the US' relationship with its territories in the Pacific, such as Guam and American Samoa, as well as economic assistance to nations in association with the US, such as the Marshall Islands.

He said that, by 2010, the population of Guam would increase by 25 per cent to about 205,000 because of the massive increase in troop numbers.

Besides the construction of the base, there would also be a big development of associated infrastructure to cope with the influx of marines.

Mr Cohen said many New Zealand businesses, including Fletcher Building, had wide experience in the South Pacific, and the US was keen for assistance.

New Zealand business people would also find it easy to travel in the region because of the business waiver agreement with the US.

He called on New Zealand businesses to attend the Island Business Opportunities conference to be held in Guam in October.

The conference would detail opportunities in infrastructure investment and incentives to do business in the island nations with which the US has a strong relationship.

Mr Cohen's office is responsible for a budget of US$425 million, which is mostly spent on aid and other assistance to the US' Pacific territories.

The US recently signed a new compact with the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia which allocates US$3.5 billion of assistance to them over 20 years.

Another new compact with Palau is also being negotiated.

Mr Cohen said the US experience with the Micronesian nations had many similarities to New Zealand's relationship with the South Pacific.

Residents of the US territories in the Pacific have rights of citizenship, while the nations in free association have rights of residency.

Mr Cohen said the historical relationship was a double-edged sword that acted as a "safety valve" for those needing employment, but also created a brain-drain effect.

He is in New Zealand for the Pacific Futures conference, being held in Auckland today.

The conference is looking at business opportunities for New Zealanders in the Pacific.

Other speakers include Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

Monday, May 07, 2007

North Korea and Guam

Pacific, Korean Commanders Declare ''Overmatch''
Mar 8, 2007
By Michael Bruno/Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

The four-star chiefs of the U.S. Pacific and Korea combatant commands declared March 7 that the United States and its allies enjoy an overwhelming "overmatch" of naval and air forces in the region against any challenger, but the Korea commander noted concern with longer-term supplies of air-delivered munitions.

U.S. Navy Adm. William Fallon, head of Pacific Command, and U.S. Army Gen. Burwell Bell, the military commander in South Korea, told the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) that they are not in immediate need of additional weapons, systems or other so-called unfunded priorities.

They also maintained that U.S. commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan operations, particularly ground forces, do not impede their abilities to respond to potential incidents with China, North Korea or other regional contingencies. The United States would lead with its Navy and Air Force, as well as the South Korean army there.

Moreover, despite being given plenty of opportunity to state otherwise, Fallon, who shortly will take over Central Command in the Middle East, also told lawmakers that proposed or potential delays to acquisitions like the Joint Strike Fighter, shipbuilding or other long-term programs do not concern him now as long as investments are kept up so those platforms and systems could be accelerated and expanded if need be.

"We weigh off risks," the admiral said. "You make these tradeoffs."

He also highlighted ongoing positive developments such as X-band and Aegis radars for missile defense, as well as the recently ordered deployment of a dozen F-22 Raptors to Kadena Air Base, Japan (DAILY, Feb. 28).

Nevertheless, under pointed questioning from Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), a retired vice admiral who unseated former HASC vice chair Curt Weldon (R) last November, Bell acknowledged that if a conflict with North Korea extended from days to weeks, he would ask for more strike munitions from U.S. inventories. Ideally, Korean and domestic inventories would be boosted before then anyway, he said.

Overall, U.S. air power apparently would play a major role in such an engagement, according to their dialogue during the hearing. North Korea watches Guam-to-South Korea B-52 exercises closely. While Bell is not too worried about North Korean air forces, whose flight hours and capabilities pale in comparison to U.S. aircraft, he is "very concerned" about roughly 80,000 North Korean special forces personnel who likely would be seeded throughout South Korea via aircraft and other means.

Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), HASC seapower and expeditionary forces chairman, also pressed Bell on Humvees in his area of responsibility. Taylor is convinced all U.S. branches should replace every Humvee with Mine Resistant Ambush Protection (MRAP) vehicles, as the Marine Corps plans to do starting in Iraq. The general responded that while "soft-skinned" Humvees would not be his first choice in a Korean conflict, officials do not anticipate the same problem with roadside bombs that plague U.S. forces elsewhere.

The Senate Armed Services Committee on March 8 will hear from Adm. Timothy Keating, to be the new Pacific commander, as well as Air Force Lt. Gen. Victor Renuart Jr., who will follow Keating as head of Northern Command.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Fortress Hubs

David Axe
U.S. is building up forces on strategic islands in the Far East
Aviation Week
April 27, 2007

U.S. Air Force KC-135R Stratotanker angles toward Kadena Air Base from the sea, its four turbofans idling as it flares for landing. A Navy P-3C Orion patrol plane is visible through the bluish smoke as the tanker's tires touch the runway. The P-3C accelerates to its place in a long line of aircraft waiting to take off, including F-15C Eagle fighters and, for the first time outside the U.S., brand-new F-22A Raptor stealth fighters on a three-month deployment from Langley, Va. One by one the fighters roar into the bright blue sky over this Japanese island, heading for an ocean range where they will practice aerial combat and tanking, preparing for the day when they might be ordered to sweep the skies of Chinese or North Korean warplanes as part of the defense of Taiwan or a bombing campaign against Kim Jong Il's nuclear facilities.

Thousands of miles from Okinawa, U.S. ground forces are fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, conflicts that have effectively monopolized the nation's deployable land power. But in the Pacific, the Pentagon's focus is on the opposite end of the spectrum of potential conflict: The perceived threats here are large industrial militaries equipped with ships, aircraft and tanks, whose commanders develop strategies for traditional goals like capturing territory. The 300,000-strong U.S. forces arrayed to defeat these threats are, in contrast to those fighting in the war on terror, primarily air and naval.

Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan increasingly promote soft strategies such as reconstruction, humanitarian aid and foreign security-force reform in order to win a conflict with relatively little direct combat. In the Pacific, by contrast, improving U.S. forces means spending big dollars to outfit them with the latest hardware while also expanding the sprawling bases that will serve as "fortress hubs" for future operations in the region. In coming years, Pacific Command is gaining three permanent F-22 squadrons, 16 C-17 Globemaster airlifters, two additional nuclear attack submarines and the first Littoral Combat Ships, in addition to its present forces.

"Arms buildup? I wouldn't use that language," says Air Force Maj. David Griesmer from Pacific Command, which has its headquarters in Hawaii. "There's certainly an acknowledgment that Pacom is half the world. These capabilities need to either go on one side [of the world] or the other. The Asia-Pacific region is growing. It's the way of the future. There's a large amount of economic activity." Plus, he adds, "The six largest militaries are in this area," a reference to China, the U.S., Russia, India, North Korea and South Korea.

To many observers, in fact, the future looks a lot like the past--the Cold War, but with an Asian flair.

Indeed, the linchpin bases for U.S. Pacific strategy are both prizes from World War II to which the Cold War was a grand corollary. Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture and the site of Kadena AB among other U.S. installations, was wrested from Japan during a three-month struggle in 1945, during which at least 200,000 people died. Guam, the other major U.S. hub in the Pacific, was invaded and occupied by Japan between 1941 and 1944. More than 20,000 people died when the U.S. retook the island.

The locations and geographies of the outposts dictate their roles. Despite being crowded and something of a political hot potato, Okinawa's proximity to the Taiwan Strait and the Korean Peninsula--just over an hour's flight to either--and the sheer size of Kadena, one of the largest U.S. air bases in the world, means it is indispensable as a base for short-range aircraft that must react quickly.

At Kadena, alongside 7,000 personnel, the USAF has permanently stationed more than 50 F-15s plus tankers, E-3 Sentry radar planes, HH-60G rescue choppers and Special Forces aircraft, all belonging to the 18th Wing. Elsewhere on Okinawa, the Marines fly F/A-18 Hornet fighters, tankers and helicopters. RC-135 Rivet Joint spy planes and EA-6B Prowler jammers are frequent guests. The Navy's six Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers, including the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, are also regular visitors to the area with their Hornets, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, E-2C Hawkeye radar planes and helicopters. And in a crisis, perhaps hundreds of U.S.-based fighter aircraft would converge on Okinawa.

"Because of our capability to stage forces out of here--this is a huge runway--we do believe we have unmatched air power," says Kadena official John Monroe. "That's probably the most important thing about Kadena."

During testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, then Pacom chief, Navy Adm. William Fallon, and Army Gen. Burwell Bell, commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, seconded Monroe's assessment, announcing that U.S. Pacific forces maintain "overmatch" in the region, especially with regard to aircraft and ships. But Bell conceded that bomb and missile stockpiles were a potentially limiting factor.

That's a view the Air Force shares. Hence its investment in a 6,000-acre munitions storage area adjacent to the Kadena runway, the size of which exceeds that of many air bases elsewhere in the world. "We keep munitions for several types of aircraft because we are going to be a forward staging base," Monroe explains.

The F-22 deployment to Kadena, which began in February, is exercising the base's ability to support visiting fighter units in addition to testing the expeditionary skills of F-22 pilots and maintainers from the 27th Fighter Sqdn., which is part of the 1st Fighter Wing. And the deployment is paving the way for permanent basing of three Raptor squadrons in the region, starting with 18 jets for the Alaska-based 3rd Wing this year.

Many regions might have hosted the new fighter's first foreign deployment. But the Pacific is a perfect fit for the Raptor "because it can travel long distances," Griesmer says. The Raptor's range, while classified, exceeds that of most other fighters.

But 27th Fighter Sqdn. commander Lt. Col. Wade Tolliver says that, more than range, the Raptor's ability to penetrate air defenses--thanks to its speed, stealth and sensors--makes it uniquely qualified for Pacific duty as a trailblazer for all those follow-on forces Monroe describes. "There are a lot of countries out there that have developed highly integrated air-defense systems," Tolliver says. "The United States and its allies are used to going to a place and building up things prior to making an offensive. . . . What we need to do is take some of our assets that have special capabilities--B-2s, F-22s, F-117s--and roll back those integrated air-defense systems so we can bring in our joint forces."

From a training perspective, the Pacific is ideal for fighter pilots due to the high concentration of friendly jets for mock dogfighting, and because of the large number of tankers at Kadena and other bases. "Tanker capability is very important," Griesmer says of the Pacific. "Look at the map and see all the blue." But due to tanker shortages in the U.S. owing to the fleet's advanced age, the fighter pilots that might have to rely on aerial refueling during a Pacific surge find it difficult to keep up that perishable skill. "Normally, we tank about once a week because we're sharing tanking assets with other fighters on the East Coast," says Capt. Chris Gentile from the 27th Fighter Sqdn. But at Kadena, he and the other Raptor jockeys tank almost every day.

Distance, and its perils, define Pacific operations. Kadena's proximity to potential battlefields is an advantage for short-range fighters, but a liability too, since it's within range of North Korea's and China's tactical ballistic missiles. The U.S. Navy has deployed rudimentary sea-based missile defenses in the Sea of Japan in the form of Raytheon SM-3 Standard interceptors on board a handful of the 175 ships in the Pacific Fleet. As a backstop, in August the Army stationed a Lockheed Martin PAC-3 anti-missile battery at Kadena to protect the air base.

Guam, more than 1,000 mi. to the south, is protected from ballistic missiles by its distance, allowing the Army to postpone a planned PAC-3 deployment to the island to around 2012. What's more, while local political opposition has long plagued U.S. forces in Japan, the Chamorros of Guam mostly welcome the 12,000 military personnel on the island. "It may be easier for us to be there, as far as the diplomatic issue is concerned," Monroe says "but if we're in Guam, we're out of the fight" due to the distance.

This distance has shaped the force structure on Guam. For three years, the island's Andersen Air Base has hosted rotations of heavy bombers, tankers and patrol planes from the U.S., all assets with long ranges and long loiter times that mitigate the impact of distance on their operations. In February, the USAF activated the 36th Operations Group on the island to smooth the comings and goings of B-52H Stratofortresses, B-1B Lancers and B-2A Spirits. And this year, the Air Force will permanently station RQ-4B Global Hawk spy drones at Andersen. To support these aircraft plus the three attack submarines that began arriving in 2002, two more submarines that are planned and as many as 8,000 Marines from Okinawa, the Pentagon is investing up to $1 billion in construction over the next decade.

Okinawa and Guam thus fulfill complementary roles in U.S. Pacific strategy-the former as a staging base for short-range fighters, the latter as a safer, albeit more distant, base for bombers, drones and submarines.