March 5 (UPI) -- Strengthening the U.S. military presence on Guam and providing arms to Taiwan should be priorities, the chief of the U.S .Indo-Pacific Command said.
Adm. Philip Davidson told a virtual conference of the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday that Guam, a heavily fortified U.S. island territory in the Pacific Ocean near the Philippines, China and Japan, should be defended as part of the homeland.
"Guam is absolutely critical in maintaining deterrence and stability in the region," Davidson said. "It is our most critical operating location west of the international dateline. Funding for the air and missile defense of Guam is my No. 1 priority, most importantly because Guam is U.S. homeland. There are 170,000 Americans living in Guam, and their defense is homeland defense."
He mentioned Marine Corps Camp Blaz, established on Guam in 2020 to accommodate up to 5,000 troops, and noted that however well-defended the island chain will be, it is always a potential target for Chinese assault.
"The Guam defense system will allow us to regain the advantage, help us to deter China, and will demonstrate our steadfast commitment to our allies and partners in the region that we are here to stay and to defend what is ours," he added.
A 2020 propaganda video by China's air force depicted an attack on Guam's Andersen Air Force Base.
Davidson also called for "consistent arms sales" to Taiwan as part of a deterrence strategy, noting a recent enlarged presence of Chinese aircraft and ships around Taiwan, suggesting that China increasingly believes Taiwan could successfully be invaded.
"In and around Taiwan over the last several months we've seen an uptick in air activity from the PRC [People's Republic of China] that includes bomber flights to fighter flights, reconnaissance aircraft, maritime patrol aircraft, even going so far as to repeatedly penetrate the Taiwan air defense identification zone," Davidson said. "I'm deeply concerned about the next six years, but certainly the course of this decade as well."
Davidson's comments came as he visits Washington government leaders in support of funding the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, which has a $4.6 billion price tag in fiscal 2022, and $27 billion through 2027, to build up capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.