House China Select Committee Chairman Mike Gallagher has expressed concerns about the vulnerability of Guam, an essential US territory, to Chinese military aggression. In a letter to Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, Gallagher requested information on the US Army’s efforts to protect Guam, which hosts significant military bases and plays a crucial role in the defense of American allies in the region. The heightened sophistication of Chinese missile systems has increased the vulnerability of Guam, posing a significant risk to US operations and interests in the area.
Guam’s Strategic Importance:
With over 20,000 US troops stationed on the island, Guam holds strategic importance in defending American allies and interests in the western Pacific. The presence of Naval Base Guam and Anderson Air Force Base, which houses US strategic bombers and fighters, makes Guam a vital hub for military operations in the region.
Chinese Missile Threat:
Gallagher emphasized that Guam is located much closer to China than Hawaii, making it an attractive target for Chinese missiles. China has spent decades developing short and intermediate-range ballistic missiles capable of targeting Guam, US airfields in Japan, and US naval assets in the western Pacific. Furthermore, China has built a formidable inventory of highly capable cruise missiles that can be launched from various platforms, including ships, submarines, and bombers.
Gaps in Defense Capabilities:
While the US has developed adequate sea and land-based ballistic missile defense capabilities, it has significant gaps in its ability to defend against Chinese cruise missiles targeting land-based targets like Guam. Gallagher warned that these deficiencies jeopardize the ability to use Guam as a submarine port and base effectively, critical for US operations in any contingency involving China.
Delays in Missile Defense System:
The US Army’s ground-based missile defense system, designed to defend against cruise missiles, has encountered significant delays. The selected launcher prototype faced supply chain issues, delaying delivery and pushing back the operational assessment to late 2024. Gallagher requested information on alternative options to bridge the defense gap caused by these delays.
Strengthening Defense Capabilities:
Gallagher urged the Army to provide details on the delays and its plans to strengthen land-based cruise missile defense capabilities in Guam. Additionally, he inquired about potential integration of capabilities with allied nations like Japan and Australia to enhance defense cooperation in the region.
Concerns raised by House China Select Committee Chairman Mike Gallagher highlight the vulnerability of Guam, an essential US territory, to Chinese missile threats. The strategic importance of Guam and its hosting of critical military bases make it a target for Chinese aggression. The delays in deploying a much-needed missile defense system pose risks to US operations in the region. Strengthening the defense capabilities of Guam and enhancing coordination with regional allies will be crucial in addressing these challenges.