US to build base on Saipan to counter PLA missiles: analyst

Staff Reporter
Want China Times

A US B-52 strategic bomber lands at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. (Photo/USAF)

A US B-52 strategic bomber lands at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. (Photo/USAF)

The island of Saipan — an unincorporated territory of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean — will be reconstructed as a military base to prepare for a potential missile attack by the People’s Liberation Army over the Second Island Chain, according to John Reed, a US military analyst, in an article written for the website of Foreign Policy magazine.

The Second Island Chain is a series of island groups stretching from northern Japan to the Bonin and Marianas islands. It is the second defense line of the United States to prevent the expansion of China’s maritime power in the Eastern Pacific after the First Island Chain, which extends from Alaska to the Philippines, Reed said. Guam is currently the most important US military base in the Western Pacific with the Apra Harbor and Andersen Air Force Base.

If a conflict were occur, China would likely attack the naval base at Guam with its newly developed DF-21D anti-ship missiles, Reed said. He added that other islands within the area such as Saipan and Tinian should be used as support bases to the US Air Force and Navy under the Pentagon’s Air-Sea Battle concept. He said that if the main base at Guam is destroyed, the US can still disperse its force into those small, bare bones bases in the Pacific.

Reed said the US Air Force is planning to lease 33 acres of land on Saipan for the next 50 years to build a “divert airfield” on an old World War Two airbase there. “Saipan would be used by American jets in case access to the US superbase at Guam or other Western Pacific airfields is limited or denied,” said Reed. It will be able to accommodate cargo, fighter, and tanker aircraft along with up to 700 support personnel, he said.

Saipan’s new air force base will be used for periodic divert landings, joint military exercises, and joint and combined humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, according to US Air Force documents.

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