Commander, Joint Region Marianas, Rear Admiral Benjamin Nicholson addressed the Joint Annual District Court of Guam and the Biennial Pacific Judicial Council Conference Sept. 20, affirming Guam’s critical role in regional defense and stability.
“As the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s senior military official for this region, I am charged with ensuring the defense of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau,” Nicholson said during his remarks. “This part of my job can get a little complicated because it’s not just about protecting Americans or even our country. Rather, we are working hand-in-hand with our partners and allies to defend the entire region,” he said.
During his speech, 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 around the world.”
He said the PRC’s growing threat to regional and global stability is seen in many forms, not only through rapidly expanding military capabilities, but also through political and economic influence. After providing a few examples, Nicholson stressed that America’s interest in the region is peace and stability, and that this works best when allies work together to achieve common goals and objectives.
“As a military force, we are charged with defending ourselves against those who would threaten that stability,” Nicholson said. “We also work regularly with several countries in the Pacific not only to share our skills and capabilities, but to build those relationships so we can work together to effectively protect our common interests,” he said. “Our presence here and the relationships we are actively building on are key to the stability of the entire Indo-Pacific.”
The military presence on Guam has grown since its post-Cold War nadir in the early 2000s. However, the current increase in military personnel on the island is expected to be only a fraction of the number of military personnel here during the height of the Cold War.
“But it’s not just about Guam. We are also taking steps to strengthen existing infrastructure on other islands; to invest in places instead of building more bases. This allows for agility and the ability to move forces when and where they are needed,” said Nicholson. “Many of the steps we have taken to get to this point would not have been possible without the support of our legal and judicial experts like you.”
Admiral Nicholson thanked the legal community for their unwavering commitment to the rule of law and called on the group to remain extra vigilant to ensure that national and international norms and laws are followed in defense of a free and open Indo-Pacific.