GUAM -- Commander, Joint Region Marianas, Rear Adm. Benjamin Nicholson addressed the Joint Annual District Court of Guam and Biennial Pacific Judicial Council Conference, Sept. 20, and reaffirmed Guam’s vital role in regional defense and stability.
“As the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command senior military official for this region, I am tasked with ensuring the defense of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau,” said Nicholson during his remarks. “This part of my job can get a little complicated because we are not just looking at protecting Americans, or even just our country. Rather, we work hand in hand with our partners and allies for the defense of the entire region,” he said.
During his remarks, Nicholson said, “the Department of Defense (DoD) has identified the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the most consequential strategic competitor to the United States and our allies and partners throughout the world.”
He said the growing threat of the PRC to regional and global stability is seen in many forms not just through military capabilities, which are quickly expanding, but through political and economic influence. After citing a few examples, Nicholson emphasized that America’s interests in the region are for peace and stability, and this works best when allies work together toward mutual goals and objectives.
“As a military force, we are charged to defend against those who would threaten that stability,” said Nicholson. “We also regularly partner with multiple countries in the Pacific, not only sharing our skills and capabilities, but building those relationships so we can work together to effectively protect our mutual interests,” he said. “Our presence here, and the relationships we are actively building upon is the key to the stability of the entire Indo-Pacific.”
The military presence on Guam has grown from the post-Cold War drawdown low-point in the early 2000s. However, the current increase in military members on the island is projected to be only a fraction of the number of service members here during the height of the Cold War.
“But it’s not all about Guam. We are also taking steps to shore up existing infrastructure in other islands; investing in places, rather than building up more bases. This allows agility and the ability to move forces when and where they are needed,” said Nicholson. “Many of the steps we’ve taken to get to this point would not have been possible without the assistance of our legal and judicial professionals, such as you.”
Admiral Nicholson extended his appreciation to the legal community for their steadfast commitment to the rule of law, and he appealed to the group to remain extra vigilant in ensuring national and international norms and laws are followed in the defense of a free and open Indo-Pacific.