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PostPhilippines, Guam, and Military Spending (Timothy Brown, USA, 04/12/16 4:30 am)
I always find Eugenio Battaglia's comments on WAIS interesting, and appreciate and apologize for misreading his comment on Vietnam and the Philippines.
On the question of whether or not anyone should care about the islands, reefs or other confetti of geography in the South China Sea, may I suggest that my fellow WAISers go to Google Earth and search islands South China Sea. What they will see is that there are literally dozens of islands, reefs and so forth that extend from just off the coast of Taiwan to Brunei, with many of them just offshore of Palawan, the Philippines, or Brunei.
As for the US military buildup on Guam, here's a quote from the GAO audit analysis on it. (The full text can be Googled at US GAO-Military Buildup on Guam.) From an accountant's perspective, Japan is just loaning money to the US that the US will eventually have to pay back, while the government of Guam (read the US Treasury) will fund a few billion dollars worth of off-base expenditures. In my view, from the political perspective, Japan is doing this for two reasons. One, to keep the US military as close as possible for its own defense. And two, to solve the domestic political problems being caused by Okinawan protests and demonstrations against the mere presence of US military forces on Okinawa and the proposed building of yet another US military airbase on that island.
As for why we are engaged in building facilities to house a much larger US military presence on Guam, I'll leave extensive explanation to the professionals. But as I understand it, when we were expelled by the government of the Philippines from Clark Air Force Base and Subic Bay naval base, the US's two major bases in its territory, at first we hoped to replace them by building a larger presence on Okinawa. But, given the volatile situation on Okinawa, we chose to build on the only US-controlled alternative within range, Guam.
While the Philippines are having second thoughts and, I understand, given the unexpected strategic threats to its territory posed by China's rapid physical expansion of its territorial claims to the right to build militarily useful baselets on islands within canoe range of Palawan, they may invite the US to return to its bases.
On Japan, not the US, paying all the expenses for the Guam buildup, a quote fro a recent GAO audit is instructive: "The military buildup on Guam is likely to cost about $7.5 billion in military construction funding from fiscal years 2009 through 2016, according to the latest estimates by DOD. However, DOD has yet to fully identify some costs associated with the buildup. For example, DOD has not developed cost estimates for the air and missile defense task force that may be placed on Guam. In addition, construction for future facilities for the Air Force Guam Strike initiative is expected to occur over a 16-year period, which extends beyond the current costs that the Air Force has estimated through fiscal year 2015. In addition, the Government of Japan is expected to provide up to an additional $6.09 billion in funding for infrastructure and facilities to support the Marine Corps relocation, which includes directly funding up to $2.8 billion in military construction projects on Guam, including utilities and site improvements for future facilities. Japan is also expected to fund up to $3.29 billion in special purpose entity loans and equity investments for installation support infrastructure for utilities and for military family housing, and, according to DOD officials, Japan is expected to recoup most of these funds over time in the form of repayments from the US government and rents paid by Marine Corps service members through their housing allowances."
JE comments: Might we say that Japan has bribed the US to take its people out of Okinawa? On a different topic, could Tim Brown tell us more about the expansion of Chinese island "baselets"?