US admiral says Guam needs more defenses to stop China from knocking it out of the fight with a 'cheap shot'

  • The Indo-Pacific Command chief pushed lawmakers to boost Guam’s defenses against threats from China.
  • He said that Aegis Ashore would better protect the strategic territory from missiles.
  • “Guam is a target today,” he stated, noting that Guam will face greater threats in the future.
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The top US commander in the Indo-Pacific pressed lawmakers on Tuesday to support the fielding of additional air-and-missile defense capabilities for Guam given China’s growing ability to threaten the important territory.

“Guam is a target today,” US Navy Adm. Philip Davidson, the commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It needs to be defended, and it needs to be prepared for the threats that will come in the future.”

“Guam is not just a place that we believe that we can fight from, as we have for many decades,” he said, telling the Senate panel that “we are going to have to fight for it.”

The admiral, who has made the defense of Guam a top priority, said that this strategic US territory would benefit from Aegis Ashore. He argued that the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system in place to defend Guam is incapable “of meeting the current trajectory of threats from China.”

Davidson called attention to a Chinese propaganda video that showed an H-6 bomber strike on Andersen Air Force Base on Guam as evidence of China’s strategic thinking. The video was mocked for shamelessly ripping footage from Hollywood films like ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

The Pentagon’s most recent China military power report noted that Chinese “H-6K bomber flights into the western Pacific Ocean demonstrate China’s ability to range Guam with air-launched [land-attack cruise missiles]” while the DF-26 mid-range missile nicknamed the “Guam Express” is “capable of conducting precision conventional or nuclear strikes against ground targets, which could include US bases on Guam.”

Davidson said that Guam would be better to prepared to defend against these threats with Aegis Ashore, an air-and-missile defense system based on the system the US Navy has installed on a number of its guided-missile destroyers and cruisers.

Davidson said Tuesday that America has “to demonstrate that any ambition China might have and any threat it might put forth toward Guam would come at cost.”

“That would be really by the collection of not only this defensive capability, which I think is so critical because it prevents a cheap shot,” but also other capabilities “to let China know that the cost of what they seek to do are too high and give them doubt in their success,” he said.

The admiral told lawmakers that putting Aegis Ashore on Guam would show China that “it “can’t knock Guam out with an easy shot and keep us out of the fight to present a fait accompli” in a regional crisis, such as a conflict over Taiwan.

Davidson’s Aegis Ashore proposal is part of the broader Pacific Defense Initiative expected to require an estimated $4.6 billion in defense funds in fiscal year 2022 and $27 billion over the next five years as the Pentagon makes competition with China a priority.

Department of Defense leadership has repeatedly identified China as the “pacing threat,” and the Biden administration has singled China out as America’s most challenging competitor.

In this competition, Guam is a vital territorial holding. Not only is it home to more than 170,000 US citizens and service members, but it also offers access to a deepwater port, fuel and munition storage, and an airfield that for US power projection. A submarine squadron and a ship that performs maintenance on them are based there.

“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,” Davidson told lawmakers Tuesday.

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