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‘We Would Find Ourselves Actually Defending America, From Hawaii’: Newsham on China’s Pacific Threat

In this special episode, we sat down with Alex Gray, senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council and former director for Oceania and Indo-Pacific security at the U.S. National Security Council during the Trump administration; and Grant Newsham, retired Marine colonel and director of the One Korea Network. They discuss the importance of the Pacific islands, what it would mean if the United States loses its standing as the preeminent Pacific power, and the consequences if the Chinese regime gains the upper hand.

Newsham said if the Chinese regime were to get the upper hand in the Pacific, it would impact “the simple physical ability to operate in the region. We would find ourselves actually defending America, from Hawaii. And if you play that out a little more, you’re actually defending America, from a lot closer to the U.S. West Coast. As hard as that is to believe, particularly for somebody who’s sort of growing up after World War II—where we’ve had the upper hand, where really Asia, the Pacific has been ours—we would finally face an enemy, face a situation where we would be on the defensive, and from much closer to American territory.”

“And this would have a way of playing out in other parts of the world as well. So you really can’t overstate what is at stake here, in my opinion,” he added.

Gray said: “If we’ve learned anything from the post-COVID supply chain disruptions, it’s just how critical U.S. economic and commercial traffic from Asia to the West Coast, and from the West Coast distributed throughout the United States really is. We continue to be reliant in so many ways on trade and commerce coming from not just China, but from Southeast Asia and from India. And so much of that is going to traverse through the Pacific and end up in West Coast ports. And as long as that is our economic model, as long as we continue to have an economy that requires cheap imports to fuel our consumer spending habits, that’s going to require a Navy and projection forces that can traverse the Pacific, keep the sea lanes open, and allow the engine of our economy to keep churning.”

He added, “and whoever controls access to those islands, whether it’s the Solomons in the south, whether it’s Micronesia and the Marshalls and Palau in the north, whether it’s Kiribati near Hawaii, whoever has the ability to deny access, or keep open access, is going to play a major role in determining the commercial future of the wider Pacific. And that’s what the Chinese partially want. They want to be a global power.”

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