Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has worsened Chinese-American tensions, but her stopover in Guam beforehand highlights existing animosity through the American militarization of the territory. Pelosi (D) of California arrived with Representatives Mark Takano (D) of California, Gregory Meeks (D) of New York, Suzan DelBene (D) of Washington, Andy Kim (D) of New Jersey, and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D) of Illinois. The delegation met with Delegate Michael San Nicolas (D) and Governor Lou Leon Guerrero (D) of Guam during the brief visit.
San Nicolas thanked the delegation, saying, “We were so pleased our friends made time to visit Guam and find out about key issues we need to maintain attention on. We engaged in highly classified discussions critical to Guam’s safety and the well-being of our community, and shared detail of our need for inclusion into national programs.” Leon Guerrero also summarized the visit, explaining that Pelosi discussed “the strategic importance of our island in the Indo-Pacific strategy of the United States, and she thanked the people of Guam for our patriotism.” Leon Guerrero also highlighted “consistent communication” between her administration and military leadership, which “will ensure Guam gets the maximum benefit from the military buildup and that federal and Guam laws are complied with regarding the protection of our environment and culture.”
Guam is a strategic outpost in the Pacific Ocean because it is the closest American territory to Asia, and is within range of both North Korea and China. The territory helps American forces provide logistics, deter foreign powers, and show off military power in the Indo-Pacific region. The United States currently occupies 27% of Guam’s land, most of which is missile defense and military installations. The territory is home to three bases: Andersen Air Force Base, Naval Base Guam, and the newly constructed Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz.
Former Commander of United States Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Phil Davidson, testified before Congress on the importance of Guam, saying, “For the past three years, I have repeatedly stated the most important action we can take to increase the joint force’s lethality is to introduce a 360-degree, persistent, air and missile defense capability on Guam (Guam Defense System). This system and the associated architecture must be robust enough to address the emerging threats, including hypersonics and the ability to integrate existing weapon control systems within this decade. This system is critical for defending the Homeland, including our most important American operating location in the western Pacific. America’s day begins in Guam, and it is not only a location we must fight from, but one we must also fight for given the threats we face in the near term and the foreseeable future.”
Some strategists have likened Guam to a 21st-century Pearl Harbor, as it could be the first location attacked by Chinese forces in conflict. Multiple military simulations and practices involve China attacking Guam and other Pacific military bases to deter American forces from interfering with its invasion of Taiwan in the future. The Chinese Air Force also released footage of a military exercise that involved an attack on an airfield similar to Andersen Air Force Base. The people of Guam will experience increased military mobilization in the coming years, as they face the possibility of becoming the center of a conflict between two superpowers once again.