U.S. military to beef up its presence on Guam
An Air Force general notes the existing deterrent capabilities at the Pacific isle site
The U.S. military has an arsenal of weapons on Guam that could be used against any potential aggressor, a key Air Force official said yesterday as North Korea apparently was preparing to test a missile that could reach the United States.
Lt. Gen. David Deptula said the Air Force plans to station KC-135 jet tankers and long-range unmanned surveillance drones on Guam, half way between Japan and Hawaii.
The three-star general, who heads the Air Force's year-old Kenney Headquarters at Hickam Air Force Base, said bombers and jet fighters also will be assigned there. Guam also will be the home of 8,000 Marines who will be moved from Okinawa.
"The fact we have forces arrayed on Guam on a day-to-day basis for the past couple of years allows us to respond over a great distance with our bombers in a very short period and any potential aggressor should take note of that," Deptula said, speaking with reporters here and on Guam via a video tele-conference call from Hickam Air Force Base.
When asked about the possibility that the United States would try to shoot down a North Korean missile, Deptula said he would defer to the Pentagon to answer such questions.
Deptula held the press conference to discuss a large naval exercise involving three U.S. aircraft carriers that began Monday and will end on Sunday.
"We are not bringing forces out there because of a potential threat," he said, adding that they are in Guam to project "peace, power, as well as presence."
An array of 30 U.S. warships, 280 war planes and 22,000 military personnel are participating in the war games, dubbed "Valiant Shield."
Deptula said the purpose of the exercise is to help the Navy, Air Force and Marines to work together and to respond quickly to any problems in Asia and the Pacific.
North Korea's apparent preparations to test a Taepodong long-range ballistic missile have not affected the exercise, Deptula said. "We are accomplishing the exercise as planned," he said.
The North Korean missile is believed to be able to reach Hawaii and parts of the western United States.
This is the first time that a Chinese delegation is part of the seven Pacific rim nations observing the war games. Thirty-three delegates are from Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and Singapore.
Deptula said he hopes that one of the outcomes of the Chinese participation is "that we develop as partners in the Far East."
Deptula, a jet fighter pilot, is responsible for the air operations of the five-day exercise.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.