The Pacific island nation of Kiribati has just switched allegiances from Taiwan back to the People’s Republic of China which is anticipated to soon re-establish a missile tracking station on Tarawa Atoll which was dismantled in 2003. This is only 617 miles from the U.S. Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
See also “Red Line in the Pacific”
The United States Missile Defense Agency operates on the U.S. territory of Wake Island which is 1,303 miles from Tarawa. Kwajalein is much more in the public eye than is Wake. But Beijing obviously also has its sights set on Wake to obtain intelligence to offset our missile defense posture.
North Korea, Russia and China are the near adversary in the Pacific. Iranian ships at sea could also be a threat. China could very well share any vulnerabilities in our American defense system with these other hostile missile nations.
WAKE ~ THEN & NOW
50 years ago next April I was aboard a United States military contract plane that started at Travis Air Force Base, California en route to Clark Air Base, Philippines. After a pleasant 1-hour stopover at Honolulu International Airport, we departed for our next scheduled stopover on Wake Island.
I still remember the pilot’s voice coming over the loudspeaker informing us that unfortunately we had overshot Wake due to strong tailwinds. So, instead we spent a humid middle-of-the-night stopover at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam.
I’ve been back to Guam since, and to this day regret having missed the opportunity to experience Wake Island directly even if only briefly during a stopover on the way to the Philippines. So I’ve always been fascinated with Wake.
Today, I decided to bring things up to date to alert us all to what is happening on Wake Island and why it is strategically important in countering Chinese hegemony in the Pacific.
So, let’s look briefly at the history of Wake Island together. I’ve provided references if you want to do further reading along with some pertinent excerpts.
HISTORY OF WAKE
“Wake Island is a coral atoll in the western Pacific Ocean in the northeastern area of the Micronesia subregion, 1,501 miles east of Guam, 2,298 miles west of Honolulu, 1,991 miles southeast of Tokyo, and 898 miles north of Majuro.”
“Unincorporated territory of the US administered by the US Army Missile and Strategic Defense Command since 1 October 1994.”
“Wake Island was first discovered by the Spaniard Álvaro de Mendana in 1586, who named it San Francisco and claimed it in the name of the King of Spain.”
“In 1796 the Englishman Captain Samuel Wake of the merchant vessel Prince William Henry rediscovered it. He gave the atoll its present name, also carried by its largest island. ‘Wake Island’ properly refers only to this island; the collection of three islands, the reef, and the lagoon are known as ‘Wake Atoll’.”
“During the Spanish-American War, an American troop convoy bound for the Philippines (then owned by Spain) stopped off at Wake. Major General Francis V. Greene hoisted the Stars and Stripes, then with 45 stars, there on July 4, 1898.”
“In 1935 Pan American Airways began construction of a seaplane facility on Wake, which provided a convenient point for servicing and refueling of the famous ‘Pan Am Clippers’, four-engine flying boats which provided aerial transportation between Manila, Tokyo, and San Francisco. Wake became one of the stopping points on the Manila-San Francisco run (others included Midway and Honolulu.)”
“In January 1941, as war with Japan loomed, the US Navy began construction of a military base on the atoll. As such, Wake would provide a vital American outpost in the Pacific.”
Wake was attacked on December 8, while across the International Date Line, Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was attacked on December 7.
[Wake] “was besieged without resupply, and finally succumbed to a second Japanese landing on December 23.”
“On September 4, 1945, the surviving Japanese garrison … surrendered to elements of the US Marine Corps.”
“On 31 August 2006, the super typhoon Ioke (class 5) struck Wake Island. Significant damage was expected to all structures and infrastructure, including the runway. Members of the 36th Contingency Response Group at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam were estimating large costs to repair the airfield facility. On 8 September 2006, 16 members of the Group arrived at Wake to make the initial assessments and found that the runway and taxiways were still in an acceptable operational condition, with just a requirement to clear debris. Other structures were damaged, and were repaired in 5 days.”
“Atoll of three low coral islands, Peale, Wake, and Wilkes, built upon an underwater volcano; central lagoon is former crater, islands are part of the rim.”
“Strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean; emergency landing location for transpacific flights.”
“Unincorporated unorganized territory of the US; administered from Washington, DC, by the Department of the Interior; activities in the atoll are currently conducted by the 11th US Air Force and managed from Pacific Air Force Support Center.”
“Satellite communications; 2 Defense Switched Network circuits off the Overseas Telephone System (OTS); located in the Hawaii area code – 808 (2018).”
“Two offshore anchorages for large ships.”
“There are no commercial or civilian flights to and from Wake Island, except in direct support of island missions; emergency landing is available.”
“Defense is the responsibility of the US; the US Air Force is responsible for overall administration and operation of the island facilities; the launch support facility is administered by the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA).”
“[Wake is also] claimed by the Marshall Islands.”
“Wake Atoll is located approximately 2,138 nautical miles west of Honolulu, Hawaii and is a U.S. Territory under administrative control of the Department of the Air Force [since 2002], and under installation command authority of the Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center, part of 11th Air Force headquartered at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.”
“Every two weeks, a flight from Honolulu makes the six-hour journey to deliver new supplies and personnel.”
“In the dining hall, you’ll notice Thai dishes on the menu. Over half of the workforce is Thai; some have lived out here for decades, like Saw Weng Sak, an ‘old timer’ who’s been on Wake since January 1991.”
“On October 15, 1950, U.S. President Harry S. Truman and General Douglas MacArthur met on Wake Island to confer about the progress of the Korean War. Truman decided he would meet MacArthur at Wake Island, ‘so that General MacArthur would not have to be away from the troops in the field for long.'”
See especially from 5:19-5:35
“This area behind us is where all the MDA operations go where they do their missile launches back in here.”
“We’re also doing some reclamation so down in the area where the Missile Defense Agency is ~ called [?] Point ~ and for years the Air Force and the Army and whoever else was out here was dumping crap out there.”
It appears that part of the video and perhaps part of the audio of this drive around Wake Island have been censored, but these clips are herewith documented in case the video itself disappears from YouTube.
MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY
The Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) mission is to develop and deploy a layered Missile Defense System to defend the United States, its deployed forces, allies, and friends from hypersonic and ballistic missile attacks of all ranges and in all phases of flight.
Strangely enough when I tried to view the public Missile Defense Agency website on my Android phone, I got the following warning apparently from Google:
Your connection is not private
Attackers might be trying to steal your information from www.mda.mil (for example, passwords, messages, or credit cards). Learn more
Help improve Safe Browsing by sending some system information and page content to Google.
Back to safety
This server could not prove that it is www.mda.mil; its security certificate is not trusted by your device’s operating system. This may be caused by a misconfiguration or an attacker intercepting your connection.
Proceed to www.mda.mil (unsafe)
Trusting Google a lot less than I do the Missile Defense Agency, I figured okay, let’s leave well enough alone. If I can’t see what MDA says about itself, let’s see what others say.
In first, MDA remotely launches a missile
“WASHINGTON — The first-ever test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system’s ability to remotely fire an interceptor was deemed a success by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.”
Missile Defense Agency
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency, Ballistic Missile Defense System Operational Test Agency and U.S. Army soldiers of the E-62 Battery, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, conduct an intercept test today of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) element of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System during Flight Test THAAD-23, August 29, 2019.
Wake Island Embodies Reality of America as Pacific Power
Feb. 3, 2018
“Missile Defense Agency does various types of testing on different platforms. Some of it is live-firing, some of it is imaging. It just depends on what MDA has scheduled. The last live fire, they had ATK Orbital … and that was launched from here. [They also had] imaging, which was primarily the Army part of the Missile Defense Agency.”
“When the agency does come in they bring 50 to 100 people. ‘It’s not that dramatic a change,’ Breha said. ‘We’re designed to flex in that manner.’”
Design-Build Modernize Missile Defense Agency Facilities, Wake Island Airfield, Wake Island
Missile defense testing moves to Wake Island
September 29, 2016
“Wake Island would support the Theater Missile Defense Critical Measurements Program and serve as a launch venue for Theater Missile Defense, or TMD test programs, launching target missiles toward the U.S. Army’s Kwajalein Missile Range located in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.”
“The goal being to provide realistic test situations for all aspects of the missile defense mission — acquiring, tracking and intercepting target missiles.”
NAVFAC Pacific Awards Contract for Work on Wake Island
Release Date: 9/7/2017
Missile targets destroyed by THAAD, Aegis systems in tests off Wake Island
THERE’S A LOT WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT WAKE ISLAND
Shortly after the terrorist attack 9-11-2001, there were open source reports that enemy combatants who were rounded up were taken to some very out-of-the-way places to keep them out of the public view. It is probable that they didn’t all wind up in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
I’ve long had it in the back of my mind that one place I distinctly recall hearing was Wake Island. So, did the USA ever have Islamic terrorists held on Wake? Perhaps even now? I’ve also heard Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, but we’ll save that consideration for another time perhaps.
American missile defense activities on Kwajalein are well-known but little is publicized about Wake Island. The CBS story that I provided the link to earlier didn’t even go into any of these matters.
Before reading up and finding out that the MDA operates on Wake, I had pondered earlier this year why President Trump didn’t hold his tête-à-tête with KJU there, thinking it would be appropriate since Truman and MacArthur met there during the Korean War.
But obviously, that would be the last place we would want the most likely foreign potentate to launch a missile at us to ever see up-close-and-personal. Wake and Kwaj are aimed at preventing Kim from doing exactly that.
Pyongyang would not dare draw the United States into a war without saying “Mother-may-I?” to Beijing. But China is not in this to look after our own interests or even those of their clients in North Korea.
CHINA MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO MILITARIZE THE PACIFIC
Undoubtedly, when China steals secrets from the United States, they will pass it along to our mutual enemies in North Korea, Russia and Iran. For a price. Maybe not monetary, but a debt none the less.
We need to keep watching those so-called fishing boats like the one that ran aground in the Marshall Islands just after last New Year. It wasn’t very far from either Kwaj or Wake.
We have to make it worthwhile for the government of Kiribati to not allow China to rebuild the satellite tracking station on Tarawa or any other of their Islands.
Xi Jinping and his minions know a lot more about Wake Island and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency activities there than do a lot of people in our own government who should know.
That’s why bringing this threat into the public domain in our own country is healthy. We need to make sure that members of the Trump Administration and those who pontificate from their Ivory Towers on Capitol Hill counteract the growing Chinese presence in our own Pacific backyard.
The recent U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on China and the Indo-Pacific did not demonstrate an awareness of any of these issues we’re talking about today. Both Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell and members of the U.S. Senate need to reassure us that they do really have a plan of action to stop China.
This is America’s Wake up call!
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