President Donald J. Trump saved Guam.
Trump’s tough talk forced North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to publicly abandon plans to bomb Guam when it became clear that the United States would treat an attack against the largely forgotten U.S. territory the same as an attack against the 50 states.
Needless to say, those living on Guam can breathe a giant sigh of relief.
While the chattering class predictably won’t give Trump credit where credit is due, the fact that Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis’ tough talk worked should be applauded.
When asked if Guam is part of the United States, Mattis said without hesitation, “Yeah, it sure is.” The retired Marine Corps general went on to say any launch by Kim against Guam would constitute an act of war.
“You don’t shoot at people in this world unless you want to bear the consequences,” the Defense secretary told reporters.
For too long the milquetoast diplomats responsible for the North Korea brief, in both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations, have failed to stop Kim and his father, Kim Jong-Il.
As Guam’s Republican governor, Eddie Calvo, told Trump in a telephone call between the two leaders: “I have never felt more safe or confident with you at the helm.”
Calvo was also quoted as saying that only “a punch to the nose” could stop North Korea from being “a bully.”
That isn’t to say Guam and Washington can relax and assume all is well now that Kim has publicly backed down.
North Korea’s despotic regime remains a major threat not just to Guam and American interests throughout the Asia-Pacific region, but also to U.S. allies Japan and South Korea.
Then there is China, which is aggressively expanding its influence both in disputed waters of the South China Sea and on smaller islands near Guam and the other U.S. territories of American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Chinese expansion in the Pacific also comes at a time when Beijing has pledged over $60 billion in so-called development aid to African countries and established its first overseas military base in Djibouti on the strategically critical Gulf of Aden. Closer to home, China’s state-owned oil company bought one of North America’s largest refineries on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Beijing also convinced Panama to sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan just as a Chinese state-owned company announced it wants 1,200 football fields worth of land owned by the Panama Canal Authority — land that was once American until then-President Jimmy Carter surrendered the Panama Canal Zone.
The only answer to the challenges posed by North Korea and China in the Pacific, once known as the American Lake due to America’s sway in the region, is to fly the Stars and Stripes.
Washington should start in Guam.
The U.S. territory with its Navy and Air Force bases has long been a key military asset, but the island has much more to offer.
As America in Asia, Guam is uniquely positioned to be a vital economic asset. It could even host key offices of the State Department, U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Agency for International Development — giving a much-needed boost to diplomatic, trade and foreign aid efforts across the Asia-Pacific region.
Dennis Lennox writes about politics. He worked for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in the territories during the 2016 primaries and caucuses before endorsing Trump. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.