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Hawaii and Guam: Strategic Convergent Zones for the United States Forward Defense Strategy inthe Pacific

Posted by Jim on February 28, 2011

In October of 2010 I had a short statement on the happenings in the Pacific Rim and promised a full update at a later time.  This paper is the update. In developing this full update Dr. Eric Casino, John Ryan, Lee Weber (Guam based)  and I visited the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu.  We were hosted by Deputy Director Jame T. Hirai and had a full exchange of ideas including our new project on Moloka`i addressing Microenterprise development

Hawaii and Guam: Strategic Convergence Zones for the United States  Forward Defense Strategy in the Pacific Rim

By James A. Kent, President, JKA Group and Dr. Eric Casino, Director Pacific Affairs, JKA Group

Robert Kaplan had an article in the May/June 2010 issue of Foreign Affairstitled “The Geography of Chinese Power: How Far Can Beijing Reach on Land and at Sea?” His discussion of what the Chinese Navy calls the “first island chain” and the second island chain” in the Pacific Ocean drew our attention. These two maritime constructs are not simply linear descriptions of the layout of islands but ones with value-added undertones for both Chinese and American geostrategists over the Pacific Rim. Among these undertones, three are discussed below. First is the

general observation that geography trumps politics in dealing with the emergent Chinese power. Second is that  Guam and Hawaii because of  their critically important position in the second island chain are historically poised to benefit the nations of the Pacific Rim by becoming new convergence zones. Third the emerging trends and the actions needed to capture, benefit from and give leadership to these trends for the Pacific century are discussed.

An Aggressive Proposition

The “first island chain” consists of the Korean Peninsula, the Kuril Islands,

Japan (including the Ryukyo Islands), Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia,

and Australia (Kaplan, p. 33). The “second island chain” includes the U.S.

territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands (Kaplan, p. 34).

According to Kaplan the Chinese consider these two chains as

“archipelagic extensions of the Chinese landmass.” This is an aggressive

1“The Geography of Chinese Power: How Far Can Beijing Reach on Land and at Sea?” by Robert Kaplan, Foreign Affairs,May/June 2010, Volume 89, Number 3, pp 22 to 41.


proposition, considering that Guam and the Marianas are within the

forward defense arc of the United States. There is a critical need to

question this China-centric perspective by expanding the strategic

framework of analysis to embrace the whole Pacific zone that includes

the two continents of North and South America as integral components of

the Pacific Rim (see page 2, Pacific Rim Global Resource Unit).

To better understand this unfolding, China-centric perspective, a historic

perspective is offered. The JKA Group between 1986 and 1992 was

working in China for US West, a telecommunications company, (now

Qwest) and the Philippines, for President Corazon Aquino. It was found

that the then existing definition of “Pacific Rim” was somewhat useless for

social, economic, and military purposes because it tended to limit the

view to the United States and China as bracketing parameters. The JKA

team set a course to define the Pacific Rim within a global resource unit

context. With the help of a broad team of practitioners from Asia, North

America, South America, and Australia, who had ongoing interests and

knowledge about market trends, trade routes, product development, and

social and cultural insights, the Pacific Rim was drawn in a new

geographic context. As one can imagine, it was hard to find a map of

the world that puts the Pacific Ocean in the middle. The traditional

Eurocentric map marginalized the Pacific to the degree that one could

not comprehend its vastness and structure. What cannot be seen

geographically does not exist – as far as the mind is concerned.

The Pacific Rim Map the JKA team created, displayed below, shows the

boundary line on the Eastern side of the Pacific follows the Andes

Mountains in South America, the 98th

meridian through the U.S., and the

water/vegetation line in Canada, and northward to Alaska. On the

Western side, the line comes down through Russia and continues on the

border that puts Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet on the Indian side of

geographic influence. The line actually follows the geographic area

where the head waters of the Yellow, Yangtze and Mekong rivers begin

their lives. Kaplan re-enforces this geographic line by pointing out

China’s use of force to keep the three geographic areas within their zone

of influence. In the end that will not work for them since geography will

2 The JKA Group employs Human Geographic Mapping to understand productive harmony between human and physical

environments. By “entering the routines” of a community (The Discovery Process™), the actual functioning of the culture, its resilience and absorption capacity are described, including the geographic features that distinguish one population from another. Efforts to mobilize people in their environment and to foster empowerment in dealing with change arecalled Human Geographic Issue Management Systems (HGIMS)™.

HGIMS provides the natural boundaries necessary forfreeing the energy and creativity for people to act from a foundation of their geographic, place-based cultures



ultimately trump political control. This concept is important to recognize

for U.S. social, cultural and defense strategy in the Pacific

With this Pacific Rim Map a better understanding is gained of the Chinese

and their relationship to the “second island chain” which falls on the

“forward defense area” of the U.S. at Guam, the Marianas, the Carolines,

and southern Oceania. Potential Chinese military activities here have no

precedents historically. It was Japan, not China, which swept over most of

the Western Pacific. The massive U.S. military response to the Japanese

attack on Pearl Harbor and occupation of some islands in Oceania have

resulted in what Kaplan calls “legacy bases” along both the first and the

second island chains. There is little probability that China has the logistics

capability to physically breach U.S. hegemony in much of the Western

Pacific at this time. This, however, is rapidly changing with China’s foreign

aid and economic development programs targeted throughout the

3″ The Revenge of Geography”, Robert D. Kaplan, Foreign Policy Magazine, May/June 2009. Kaplan’s advice is thatWestern politicians and strategists need to “return to the map, and particularly to what he calls the political geography of the “shattered zones” of Eurasia. Also see Sir Halford J. Mackinder, “The Geographical Pivot of History” The Royal Geographical Society, 1904 where the case is made for geography trumping politics: “Man and not nature imitates, butnature in large part controls”. Mackinder looked at European history as “subordinate” to that of Asia, for he saw European civilization as merely the outcome of the struggle against Asiatic invasion

Pacific island nations. The use of soft power, which they are using to gain

influence and control, is the only choice China currently has given the U.S.

administrative and military presence.

This second island chain is not comparable to the size, composition,

resources, and strategic value of the first island chain. In this first island

seascape the Chinese Navy will see little but trouble, says Kaplan. This is

because first island chain island units are themselves nation-states and are

wary of being under the shadow of Greater China hegemony. Japan

once tried to dominate much of this first island chain under its discredited

greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Furthermore there is the growing

consolidation of the 10-nation ASEAN political and economic

conglomerate that has a much greater frontage than China on the South

China Sea and therefore having common claim on it. Some western

geostrategists in the U.S. Naval War College consider the chain as a kind

of “Great Wall in reverse”, where a well-organized line of U.S. allies “serve

as sort of guard towers to monitor and possibly block China’s access to

the Pacific Ocean”.

The Potential for Unintended Consequences

This analogy is ambivalent with serious hidden contradictions. If one

accepts this line as marking China’s forward defense area, it unwittingly

reveals a willingness to recognize and concede China’s claim that the

South China Sea behind this wall is indeed China’s—a claim that the West

and countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Northeast Asia are

naturally denying. Any intention to box in China behind this first island

chain is contrary to the principles of freedom of navigation that the United

Nations desires all countries to respect in the case of the South China Sea.

Concern about encirclement appears to be one major reason for China’s

build up of Hainan Island as a major submarine base and is an open

preparation for defensive and assertive activity in maritime zones

surrounding China. In view of these developments, there is new thinking

that desires to define and reconfigure the South China Sea as the “Asian

Mediterranean”– a concept of maritime commons, open to free,

international navigation.

No nation has a monopoly or territorial claim on the Mediterranean, and

neither should there be in the Asian Mediterranean. The more the West


Ibid, page 40.

5 On the concept of “Asian Mediterranean,” see Eric Casino and Myongsup Shin, “South China Sea or ‘Asian Mediterranean Sea’: Re-conceptualizing a Common Regional Maritime Zone,” in International Area Review, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Spring 1999)pp. 43-63.

strives to box in China behind this wall, the more China is motivated to

counter by controlling navigation inside the South China Sea by

territorializing it as if it were a landmass. However there is one caveat that

is of critical importance. Taiwan has defense agreements with the U.S.

and is entwined with the countries in the first island chain. If China should

take over Taiwan (or “when” as some analysists say), it would open up this

geographic area to China’s influence literally over night by assuming

control of the trade and defense agreements that Taiwan has with

nations in the Pacific Rim, especially in the South China Sea. This

expectation makes the second island chain as the U.S. forward defense

area of critical importance to the whole Pacific region. This essentially

means that there has to be policy recognition and commitment that puts

Hawaii and Guam in a set of power relationships comparable to those of

the first island chain that have dominated the Pacific for centuries.

An Alternative to a Military Construct

Previous Pacific Rim international research and business engagements

show that both the first and second island-chain constructs need not be

defined in exclusive military terms of defense and offense, of platforms of

hard power projections. If we revert to alternative definitions of human

geographic units inside and around the Pacific Rim rather than exclusively

political units, increasing positive exchanges across the Pacific can be

seen that have roots going back to hundreds if not thousands of years.

Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia are the anchors of the first island chain,

and movement up and down this chain was predominantly in terms of

commerce and trade

. We recognize, of course, that during the days of

European imperialism followed by Japan’s counter-imperialism, there

were eruptions of destructive colonial wars as well as unequal treaties and

political and commercial domination.

The regions around the littoral edge of China are better understood

historically as convergence zones rather than confrontation walls

separating segments of the Pacific community. Its character as

convergence zones is attested to by the coexistence here of ancient

races and contemporary multi-ethnicities. Here one sees the coexistence

of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, and Christianity. From here

have emerged the mixing and deployment of hundreds of related


For a broad treatment of international commerce in Southeast Asia, see Anthony Reid, Southeast Asia in the Age ofCommerce 1450-1680. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1988 and 1993). On China’s major attempt to project commercial power into Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, see the amazing exploits of “admiral” Zheng He in Louise Levathes, When China Ruled the Seas. (Oxford University 1994). It is important to note that Zheng He showed no interest in venturing out to the “second island chain” in the Western Pacific but confined his seven epic expeditions to territories in the first island chain down to Africa.

Austronesian languages spread out across Micronesia, Polynesia, and


. Thus to draw connections and promote exchanges between

Singapore and Guam, or between Hong Kong and Hawaii are warranted

by centuries of similar exchanges in the history of the Pacific Rim

communities that predate European colonization and Japanese


It is important to recall that the colonization of the Pacific was through the

agency of Western powers – Spain, England, France, Germany, Russia, the

United States and Australia.

The recent formal decolonization of the

Marianas, Guam, Palau, the Carolines, the Marshalls and rest of

Micronesia, Oceania and French Polynesia is a clear recognition

by the United Nations that the Pacific was not historically under Western

commercial, cultural and political influence, but had ancient informal and

formal trade relationships that predate this colonization period.

From 1565 onwards, somewhat after Magellan discovered Guam and the

Philippines in 1521, Spain inaugurated 200 years of trans-Pacific trade

known to historians as the Manila-Acapulco trade. In reality this was a

commercial alignment between China and the Americas, with Manila as

the transit point of American silver exchanged for Chinese exotic

porcelain and silk bound for the Americas and Europe.

As a result of

centuries of international commerce and modern migratory movements,

the overseas Chinese are today a significant demographic element in all

Pacific Rim communities. When their talents, resourcefulness, and capital

are coordinated with the new vibrancy of modern Chinese civilization, the

Asia-Pacific region can expect to take the lead in constructive

globalization in the 21st 

century. In this future scenario, the function of the

sea and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ –The 200 Hundred Nautical

Miles around continents and islands) will be decisive.


The most useful reference on Southeast Asian prehistory and the spread of the Malayo-Polynesian family of languagesin the Pacific is Peter Bellwood, Man’s Conquest of the Pacific: the Prehistory of Southeast Asia and Oceania. (Oxford University Press 1979).


For a good standard reference on early European discoveries in the Pacific, see Andrew Sharp, The Discovery of the Pacific Islands, Oxford University Press, 1960.


On the subsequent commercial colonization of Guam, Marianas, and the Carolines, see Francis X. Hezel, S.J. The FirstTaint of Civilization. (Hawaii University Press 1983). On the later decolonization of islands under the U.S. Trust Territories, see P.F.Kluge, the Edge of Paradise: American in Micronesia. (New York: Random House 1991).


A classic treatment of the Manila-Acapulco trade is found in William L. Schurz, The Manila Galleon. (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co. 1939).


A Promising Alternative

Pacific Rim trends were recently highlighted in the Asian Pacific Economic

Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Yokohama, Japan on November 13 and

14, 2010. There is now talk that the APEC forum will be complemented by

the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed free trade zone that now

includes Brunei, Singapore, Chile, and New Zealand (all in the Pacific Rim

Global Resource Unit displayed above). The United States and Australia,

and eventually China, will join this group that intends to eliminate most

tariffs and other trade barriers. TPP is seen as a vehicle toward a much

wider Pacific Rim treaty. It is very instructive to note what the summit

report says: “Many Asian nations have viewed with alarm China’s newly

assertive posture on territorial issues this year, and welcomed

Washington’s efforts to re-engage with a region where it is seen as an

important counterbalance.”


A less alarmist tone is the clear statement by President Obama made at the Summit on November 13, 2010: “the security and prosperity of the American people is inextricably linked to thesecurity and prosperity of Asia.”

It is this deep historical background of commercial, scientific, and cultural

relations across the Pacific that should assist and enrich creative rethinking

on the future of Hawaii and Guam as strategically located at the

geographic heart of the Pacific Rim. Especially important is the planned

move of the Marine Corps’ base from Okinawa to Guam. This must take

place in a manner that builds Guam into a full social and economic

participant in the Pacific Rim power alignments and not just a military

repositioning of U.S. forces. This requires that the move directly benefit the

people in order to avoid a long term conflict that saps U.S. energy and

forward defense security.

Other forthcoming events and trends, described herein, will encourage

fresh recalibration of the potential of Hawaii and Guam for social, cultural,

economic, scientific, and military innovations, as essential to engaging

current and future Chinese influence.

The Navy, with its massive Pacific command Headquarters in Hawaii, is

putting enormous resources into becoming free of fossil-fuels and energy

independent within a five to ten year period for its ships, aircraft, and air


On the constructive presence of immigrant Chinese entrepreneurs, families, and workers throughout the Pacific Rim,see Sterling Seagrave, Lords of the Rim (Corgi Adult, 1996).


There is an enormous opportunity for Hawaii and Guam to

piggy back onto the opportunities the Navy research provides for

applications in military and civilian enterprises. However, in order to

benefit from this conversion activity, both Hawaii and Guam must mobilize

to expand its thinking beyond the old paradigms of tourism, military bases,

and service industries of the 20


century into what the 21

st  century has tooffer. In this emerging era, the Pacific Rim is

functioning as the major player in world affairs.

What the future implies is that Hawaii, given its centrality as the base of

Navy, Air Force, and Marine infrastructure, could also become the

commercial, scientific, and renewable energy innovation center for the

Western Pacific. Hawaii has the capability to be the showcase of

renewable energy for the world. The islands are endowed with 11 of 13

world climates along with wind, solar, geothermal and wave energy

resources, which can all be developed as integral resources of ongoing,

practical industries, as soon as outstanding cultural and environmental

objections can be overcome. Hawaii likewise is the hub for high tech

companies in the region, and as such, the islands would complement

innovation enterprises in Singapore in Southeast Asia and Japan in

Northeast Asia. Recognizing the emerging Pacific Rim trends especially in

the Chinese sphere, the alignment of Hawaii with its counterparts in the

convergence zones of East Asia will contribute to the security and growth

of Trans-Pacific commerce, technology, science, education, and business

leadership development.

Coming Emphasis on the “Gathering Place” in the Convergence Zone

Hawaii is slated to host the next APEC summit in 2011 and undoubtedly

also the expanded Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Therefore strategies need

to be developed now in order to use these powerful gatherings as an


In a recent column, Tom Friedman, (The U.S.S. Prius, The New York Times, Opinion Page, December 18,2010)discusses in detail “weighing anchor for a green navy”. The conversion of the Navy and the Marine Corps to a fossil-freefuture creates enormous opportunities for Hawaii and Guam to enter the 21st century as partners with this green conversion.


The choice of Hawaii is just the latest recognition of how historically important Hawaii is as the hub of diversetransactions for countries in the Pacific Rim. It was the “gas and go” center of international whalers in the whole Pacific in the 19thcentury. Subsequent immigration waves have brought in Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Thais, Cambodians, Filipinos, Portuguese, Hispanics, Afro-Americans, and Pacific Islanders — all continuing to enhance Hawaii’s original Polynesian population and culture. Hawaii is the home of international institutions such as the East-West Center and the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. The University of Hawaii and the Hawaii Pacific University have studentsand faculty from all quarters of the world. It is uncanny how Hawaii’s schools and multi-ethnic community have educated and nurtured two great world leaders – Dr. Sun Yat-Sen the Chinese President who led China’s independence struggle;and President Barack Obama of the United States. (In fact, President Obama’s personal trajectory  amazingly links Jakarta,Honolulu, and Washington, D.C.) Hawaii is historically a convergence zone in its own right and that history can be rediscovered and built upon.

opportunity to create a paradigm shift of historic proportions for U.S.

interests in the Pacific. To optimize these events and social constructs, it

will require Hawaii and Guam to undertake various actions that can set

the course for the 21 st century:

Understand in a dynamic policy and infrastructure shift that Guam

and the Northern Marianas are our forward defense areas and must

be stabilized in a healthy and productive manner, not just as

platforms for the projection of American hard power over the

Western Pacific, but also as guarantor for securing free trade

among the nations and economies of the Pacific Rim. The

defensive scope of Guam and the Marianas includes other “legacy

positions” and “legacy alliances” in Oceania and the South Pacific

stemming from the allied victory in the Pacific War. Without a stable

and prosperous Guam, the U.S. is forced to rely on military influence

and control, thus missing an opportunity to address Chinese

hegemony by having a full social, cultural, and economic partner in

this forward defense area.

Create a local Task Force in both Hawaii and Guam of key

innovators and change agents who are currently working on

producing the shift from fossil fuels to green energy in order to

present a social and economic strategy to the APEC conference of

how these two islands intend to accomplish sustainability and future

economic and social power positions in the Pacific. The Task Forces

would build on the Navy’s innovations for parallel civilian

development in linear time that result from the total commitment of

the Navy, Guam and Hawaii to be fossil fuel free by 2020. Guam

and Hawaii loom large as convergence zones for the Western

Pacific–just as Singapore and Hong Kong are in the Asian

Mediterranean. As convergence zones they become indispensible

to free commerce and trade and provide a hedge to the

inevitable future expansion of Chinese influence in the second

island chain.

Incentivize the institutional collaboration to increase our pool of

talented, local people. Programs are needed to remedy the

“brain drain” that has diminished the talent pool in Hawaii and


Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, has discussed the concept of Guam serving as the U.S. “forward defense area”.His concepts are included in a paper: “From Stabilization to Sustainability: A Collaborative Approach to Manage the Social, Cultural, Environmental and Economic Change Created by the Marine Corps’ Move to Guam”, By James A. Kent, Kevin Preister, John Ryan and Eric Casino. The paper was presented at the University of Guam’s Conference on Islan, September 2, 2010. The paper can be viewed at: www.jkagroup.com/whatisnew

Guam for several decades. Expansion of intellectual capital is the

bottom line for insuring influence and participation that is essential

in competing for enhancing U.S. influence in non-military sectors. As

Wince-Smith of the Council on competitiveness has said: “Talent will

be the oil of the 21st 

Century.” The Navy programs in and of

themselves will generate many new careers in industries that can

be grown in the Pacific and should be optimized on a fast track to

blunt and turn around the brain drain.

Initiate “Life Options for the Future” programs to enable Hawaii to

become more like the Singapore of the Pacific. A “Life Options forthe Future”

benefits for local residents from the actions that are currently taking

place in all sectors: military, environmental, scientific, and business

development. A “coming home” program can be associated with

Life Options ” to bring back to Hawaii and Guam people who

have, for economic reasons, been forced to leave. Building over

the long term a livable, healthy and sustainable environment is

essential to participating in the Pacific era as a full partner and not

as a subordinate to other powers.

Convene gatherings that can produce a long-term action

program, one that will be supported by the nations of the Pacific

Rim, to understand how “citizen-based stewardship,” a major trend

can be harnessed in a manner that produces economic equity as

well as levels the playing field for the people who are citizens of

these countries and territories. The U.S. forward defense strategy

must be expanded to incorporate the building of Hawaii and Guam

into scientific, commercial, education, technology and business

convergence centers. This effort can convert the islands into

centers of power such as Singapore represents in the South China

Sea. To out perform China in this expansion area the U.S. needs the

support and energy of the Pacific people if it is to remain an

important and major player in the Pacific Rim. To aid in this move it

needs to be kept in mind that geography trumps politics.

Incentivize educational and business institutions to create a

productive alignment of Singapore, Hong Kong, Guam, and Hawaii

that can usher in the era of a “Blue Nation of the Pacific”

within the

Pacific Rim’s Global Resource Unit.


Lee Webber, former President and Publisher of the Honolulu Advertiser, President of Gannett Pacific and formerPresident and Publisher of the Pacific Daily News, now living in Guam, has recognized the concept of a “Blue Nation.” He is also quoted as saying” “If the cartographers of old would only have used this (cultural mapping) tool, lines may have been drawn [differently] in the Middle East and other areas around the world.”

There is emerging acknowledgement on the part of the Western powers

that indeed this is the century of the Pacific Rim. It is also recognized that

China is fast becoming a major player through social and economic

alignments with the countries of the first island chain and is positioning for

second island chain action. The U.S. in order to address this expansion

must work on insuring convergent zones of influence in the second island

change that are socially and economically healthy and free of any

oppressive control by world powers. The era of raw use of military

influence and control is over both for the U.S. and China. In its place is a

surfacing recognition that change must come from the bottom-up. To

work in this manner, requires a major commitment and readjustment in

U.S. policy and actions.



James A. Kent is a global community analyst with extensive experience with geographic focused social and economic development in Pacific Rim countries. He is President of the JKA Group www.jkagroup.com) which has three enterprises: James Kent Associates, a public policy

consulting firm; Center for Social Ecology and Public Policy, a non-profit that builds public policy from social ecological concepts; and NaturalBorders, a human geographic mapping company. Jim has presented at hundreds of universities, policy forums, and conferences focusing on military issues in the Pacific, environmental policy directed towards thecooling of the earth, citizen based policy formation and implementation, and culture-based enterprise development through collaboration.

Eric Casino is a social anthropologist and freelance consultant with a long-term interest in international business and development programs in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Beside his association with the JKA Group,he has spent time as an East-West Center research fellow and worked as a consultant with the World Bank in the Philippines. His academic track record included a resident Fulbright Scholar at the University of CaliforniaSanta Cruz, a visiting lecturer at the Asian Institute of Management, and language instructor with the Defense Language Institute and Foreign Language Center. He currently is with the adjunct faculty of the Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu.


Trish Malone, 808-443-9445   tmalone@jkagroup.com;

Dr. Eric Casino, 808-778-6362



2 Responses to “Hawaii and Guam: Strategic Convergent Zones for the United States Forward Defense Strategy inthe Pacific”

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