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THE HAWAII PERSPECTIVE
Living here in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean gives one a different outlook on the world. I refer to it as the catbird seat for observing what goes on in the Pacific Basin and East Asia.
Honolulu is 4,826 miles from Washington DC but only 3,849 miles from Tokyo. A nonstop flight to the U.S. capital is 9 hours and 15 minutes. Non-stop flights to the Japanese capital are about 8 hours and 30 minutes. There are a lot more of the latter each day than the former.
A member of the U.S. Congress from Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland or Delaware could potentially go home every night as Joe Biden allegedly did as a Senator. When I worked in Washington DC, I could fly down to coordinate a class at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia, via a 2-hour flight to Jacksonville, Florida and a 1-hour drive up I-95.
Remember that Honolulu is 2,393 miles southwest of San Francisco at about 21° N Lat and 158° W Long. In the world, this is the metropolis that is farthest from other population centers.
Honolulu does not get international flights from Europe, the Middle East, Africa or even Latin America. The overwhelming majority are from East Asia with a significant number from the Lands Down Under.
Honolulu is the home base of the United States Indo-Pacific Command which extends all the way to India along with the U.S. Coast Guard 14th District which comprises the entire Pacific Basin into Asia.
The East-West Center co-located at the University of Hawaii at Manoa also serves to foster communication and coordination among Pacific Island nations and territories.
DR. SUN YAT-SEN, FATHER OF MODERN CHINA
“Dr. Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) is known as the Father of Modern China. He also is ‘Iolani School’s most famous alumnus, known as Tai Cheong or Tai Chu when he enrolled as a 13-year-old boarding student in 1879. He graduated from ‘Iolani in 1882. When he first came to Hawaii, Tai spoke no English. His teacher Solomon Meheula asked him to first observe classes for 10 days. But Tai was a fast learner. When he graduated from ‘Iolani, he won an award in grammar, which was presented to him by King David Kalakaua. After ‘Iolani, he attended Punahou School for one semester in 1883 before returning to China. His travels eventually brought him back to Hawaii five more times.”
“The early years at ‘Iolani had an important influence on Dr. Sun. He has said that his ideas came from three main sources: ‘Chinese traditional culture, Western ideas, and his own thoughts; but that Western ideas prevailed.'”
“‘During his years at ‘Iolani and Punahou, he was exposed to Western culture, was strongly influenced by it, and in his young mind, the seeds of Western democracy were planted,’ according to the book Sun Yat-sen in Hawai‘i, Activities and Supporters.”
HAWAII IS PART OF THE PACIFIC
From the Hawaiian Monarchy, short-lived Republic of Hawaii and U.S. Territorial days to Statehood in 1959, continuing on to our present day, Hawaii never has been and is not now culturally part of the North American continent. Texas was also an independent country but nowhere nearly as far separated geographically from the American Heartland.
Yes, Hawaii is unique among the 50 states. I just recently had the pleasure of making a very long overdue trip to America’s Last Frontier, the state of Alaska. More about that perhaps at another time. As part Native American from Oklahoma myself, a highlight of our trip was a visit to the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. I sat spellbound watching and listening to indigenous youth sharing with us regarding their ongoing vibrant culture.
What we in Hawaii refer to as the U.S. Mainland, people in Alaska call the Lower 48. I’m bringing up Alaska only to allude to the fact that it is a very long route through Canada, but there is still a land connection to the rest of the USA. But Hawaii can be reached from the West Coast, or even from Alaska for that matter, only via air or sea.
I used to joke about there being a Hawaii Trans-Pacific Tunnel from the Northern California redwoods, but nobody actually fell for that. You won’t see any RVs or motorhomes on Oahu simply because there’s no place to get away to in them.
This is our Island home. But it ain’t like living on Manhattan Island which has bridges and tunnels in and out. All our food and other commodities come in by sea. Except for commercial cruise liners and yachts, most everybody gets here on an airplane from somewhere. That’s the only way we normally get to any place else from here as well.
That was more background on Hawaii’s environment than I had anticipated going into, but it is entirely relevant to the discussion ahead. Hawaii is an excellent vantage point to interact with our Pacific neighborhood.
Let’s look at some distances for comparison. It’s over 3,500 miles from Blaine, Washington to Key West, Florida and around 3,200 miles from San Diego, California to downeastern Maine. It’s about 3,800 miles from Hawaii to Guam. American Samoa south of the equator is about 2,600 miles from here.
You immediately recognize the difference between the distances involved, don’t you? In the 48 contiguous states, you are traveling over land whereas here in the Pacific, it’s all deep blue water with a few specks of land down there. That’s why there are far fewer political jurisdictions over the huge expanse of the Pacific Ocean than there are on a continent.
AMERICA’S MAJOR ADVERSARIES IN THE INDO-PACIFIC
I wasn’t totally in favor of the rebranding of the U.S. Pacific Command to the Indo-Pacific Command not too long ago. But in today’s world, the connectivity becomes obvious. As an example, China has a seacoast on the Pacific. It also has a very small border with Afghanistan. No kidding.
I considered using the term enemies, but at this point let’s go with adversaries and hope things don’t progress to outright military hostilities. There are three main countries in the region we need to consider.
With nearly a billion and a half people within its borders and more operatives around the globe, China poses the most significant existential threat not only to the United States but to the world. I still pick up takeout at Panda Express every couple weeks and truly admire the long history of China.
But it’s been a long time since Sun Yat-sen founded the nationalist government there, taking with him a respect for western values which he learned as a schoolboy here in Hawaii. The continuity went with Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan. The horrors of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung are being exhumed and reapplied as Xi Jin-Ping tries to deify himself and suppress all religion and all individuality under the iron grip of the Chinese Communist Party.
The element of China’s threat to our own security that we need to focus on here is their infiltration into our own Pacific domain. I’ll save their possible current efforts to establish a naval base in the Solomon Islands for another time and focus here instead on our own former territories above the equator.
We’ll come back to what China is doing in the Pacific. But we need to take a moment to consider a potential sudden irrational act by Kim Jong-Un in Pyongyang. I personally feel the dismissal of hardline National Security Advisor John Bolton sent precisely the wrong signal to KJU. A man who relentlessly murders three generations of a person’s family if they are found with a Bible or cross will never be deterred by any number of summits no matter how well the American President combs his hair beforehand.
Now the ambivalence of the South Korean leader, Moon Jae-In, who loves allusions to the old song Moon River, has led our allies on their half of the peninsula to have mixed emotions about America as well. The home of U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris in Seoul had to be defended against attempted invaders again today.
The United States is monitoring North Korean missile development. The Sea-Based X-Band Radar, which looks exactly like an enormous floating golf ball, recently departed Pearl Harbor for the high seas. Every time I drive by on the H-1 Feeway, I look for it but the military has confirmed that it is now deployed.
The Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands along with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency on Wake Island are both very much part of our ability to identify a North Korean missile launch and intercept it. China is a long time strategic foe but North Korea is more unpredictable and volatile to initiate an apocalyptic event.
Vladivostok is a major Russian seaport in Siberia not far from the short border with North Korea. For all its bellicose rhetoric in Europe and the Middle East, Russia has not abandoned pretensions of maintaining a significant military presence in the Pacific Basin. This includes fighter aircraft buzzing close to Guam as well as Russian maritime ventures. Right now Vladimir Putin is more tied up with developing his policy toward the war-provoking activities of Turkish President Erdoğan, but Mr KGB is quite capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time so Russian adventurism in our part of the Pacific must continue to be monitored and counteracted.
AMERICA’S MAJOR ALLIES IN THE INDO-PACIFIC
We won’t attempt to examine each and every nation individually. Rather we will focus on our major partners with whom we work closely against our mutual adversaries.
Japan is now our most steady and reliable ally in the region. After World War II, the good people of Japan changed course dramatically, rebuilt their country and have become a major contributor to stability among poorer and less powerful nations throughout Asia and the Pacific Basin.
Hawaii tourism depends very heavily upon Japanese tourists. They travel light, take brief journeys and convert a lot of yen into dollars. But their most important value as a friend of the United States is not economic. Japan continues to do much to assist other countries in their own educational and developmental efforts. This in turn augments and complements American outreaches to the less-developed islands. This is particularly true among the independent nations of Micronesia which we shall discuss a little later.
The recent State Dinner accorded by U.S. President Donald Trump to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a prime example of the continuing friendship between our two countries. Interestingly, former Prime Minister John Howard was in the United States on 9-11-2001 whereas former President Bill Clinton was in Australia.
Australia has always done a lot to assist developing Pacific Island nations. Proximity certainly has much to do with it. Sydney and Brisbane are on the Pacific Coast while Perth in Western Australia is on the Indian Ocean. Tropical Northern Australia borders on Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Timor-Leste. As a nation-continent, Australia is in a great location far from both Europe and North America and close to Asia and the Pacific.
The United States does well to partner with Australia and learn from the expertise of our mates Down Under. More will be said as things develop about the new Pacific Fusion Centre(s) sponsored by Australia which U.S. Commander in Chief of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Phil Davidson recently confirmed in a speech at the East-West Center will be a joint effort with the United States. It is sincerely hoped that Japan will also be a sponsor and participant.
There was a reason for the rebranding of INDO-PACOM. The government in New Delhi has begun working more closely with the United States, Australia, Japan, France and other Pacific powers to help counteract Chinese hegemony. Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait can also benefit from India’s participation.
In the not-too-distant past, I would most definitely have included the Philippines where I spent three years of my military service a half century ago as a major American ally, but that designation has been put in abeyance under the erratic and unpredictable regime of President Rodrigo Duterte who basically just always tries to play both sides against the middle. The best hope is that he will finish the last half of his one 6-year term without doing anything totally bizarre and we will get a more typically reliable occupant of Malacañang Palace.
At the top of my own personal bucket list for many years, having worked very closely and enjoyably with Kiwi colleagues, has been Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud. But current PM Jacinda Ardern totally freaked out after the horrendous Christchurch Massacre in March of this year. She donned the hijab, lauded the Islamic call to prayer and declared New Zealand’s solidarity with Islam. I did several articles at that time demonstrating her naïveté in failing to recognize that this was an anomaly in a world where Muslims regularly slaughter Christians.
CURRENT U.S. PACIFIC TERRITORIES
Guam and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands [CNMI] are in the Far Western Pacific within the region which China is deliberately and effectively subverting. To date their activities in Guam and CNMI are obviously more covert due to American jurisdiction there. American Samoa is in the South Pacific and not close to this region of Micronesia.
FORMER U.S. PACIFIC TERRITORIES
This is where we need to be most concerned at the present time about Chinese hegemony. There are three independent nations which emerged from the former U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Each has entered into a Compact of Free Association with the United States. As such their citizens are allowed visa-free entry to the United States so that they may reside and even work here as long as they do not have a criminal record.
As Freely Associated States, they use American dollars as their currency, the U.S. Post Office delivers their mail and the U.S. Military provides for their defense. The Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs of the U.S. Department of the Interior also helps oversee their needs. The FBI of the Justice Department provides investigative support and the U.S. Coast Guard of the Department of Homeland Security helps patrol their waters.
Federated States of Micronesia
FSM is comprised of four states: Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap. The westernmost of these is Yap. This week, a young American female Acting Attorney General of Yap was brutally shot to death in her driveway along with her dog. Rachelle Bergeron was only 33 years old when she was assassinated. She apparently had gotten too close to someone in the sex trafficking investigation she was working on. The FBI has been dispensed from Honolulu at the request of the local government. There are alleged to be Chinese Triads operating there as well.
Palau opted to become an independent nation and not part of FSM. It is closest to the Philippines and Indonesia. Corruption has also infested the government of this small island nation of around 22,000 people. The SUV of the head of the Palau Narcotics Enforcement Agency was firebombed this week. It was apparently another warning. The outside influences of narcotics and other crime in Palau may well have connections in China, too.
A Republican politician and former Mormon missionary in Phoenix, Arizona was recently arrested for an adoption scheme involving babies born to Marshallese mothers. As previously noted, Kwaj in the Marshalls is a vital American defense installation. Wake Island is a U.S. territory which is also claimed by the Marshall Islands. A 300+ foot so-called Chinese fishing vessel ran aground last New Year and had to be rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard not far from both sensitive bases.
WRAPPING IT UP
As Washington DC approaches political gridlock with the specter of impeachment, as the Middle East degenerates into a widening multifaceted conflict, as Americans try to pretend everything is life as usual, the Indo-Pacific Theater is totally off the radar for both politicians and pundits.
Hopefully the information provided here from a Hawaii vantage point will serve as an incentive for further research for those who need to better understand American interests in this volatile region. You may want to bookmark NOQ Report for timely analysis of future developments.
We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.
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