The Pentagon has
ordered a group of U.S. Air Force bombers to Guam in what is
terms a routine deployment to the Western Pacific.
A year ago, the Pentagon ordered 24 B-1 and B-52 bombers
to Guam in what was characterized then as a prudent defensive
move at a time of tensions with North Korea as other U.S.
forces were poised for war with Iraq.
Now Defense officials say bombers will return to the island
in a routine deployment designed to underscore the U.S. commitment
to the Western Pacific.
The official announcement released by the military's Pacific
Command does not say how many aircraft will be deployed to
Guam, when they will arrive or how long they will stay.
However last month, the top Air Force officer in the Pacific,
General William Begert, was quoted as telling reporters that "the
ability to project force from Guam is very valuable to us." He
disclosed that the Air Force wanted to base a variety of
aircraft on the island, including fighter jets and support
planes in addition to bombers. The general said his travels
in Asia had made clear to him that countries in the region
wanted a U.S. military presence. He was quoted as saying "they
don't see us as threatening. Quite the opposite, they see
us as stabilizing."
During last year's bomber deployment to Guam, Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld insisted the move was not intended as a threatening
signal to Pyongyang.
However last year's move followed an incident in which North
Korean fighters intercepted an unarmed U.S. reconnaissance
plane in international airspace off the North Korean coast.
U.S. officials described the North Korean action as provocative.