HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Guam is within striking distance of China's current military capabilities, according to an annual report from the Department of Defense.
The release of the document coincided with a recent unclassified security briefing on threats in the Indo-Pacific region given by the U.S. military to local senators and mayors.
Following the briefing, Sen. Telo Taitague said the island's defensive capabilities are "insufficient" to counteract an air assault.
"Any strike to Guam will assumingly be decisive to annihilate Guam's bases quickly. Additionally, Andersen's THAAD missile defense system provides a single defense layer that could be overwhelmed by a saturation strike," she wrote in a letter to the editor.
China is "beginning to field significant capabilities capable of conducting operations out to the Second Island Chain, and seeks to strengthen its capabilities to reach farther into the Pacific Ocean and globally," the report states.
The Second Island Chain is a military designation for a strategic defense line in the Pacific that includes Guam.
The People's Liberation Army already has demonstrated the island is in range of air-launched, land-attack cruise missiles from its bombers, according to the report.
A medium-range bomber called the H-6K carries up to "six precision-guided" missiles that can engage forces as far away as Guam.
Another type of missile, the DF-26, "is capable of conducting precision conventional or nuclear strikes against ground targets, such as U.S. military bases on Guam, as well as against maritime targets," the report states.
China has signaled the possible establishment of a "nuclear triad," essentially its ability to launch nuclear weapons from land, air and sea. According to the report, a relatively new unit of aircraft capable of air-to-air refueling "very likely will be developing tactics and procedures to conduct" an air-based nuclear mission.
A new national defense strategy is being developed and is expected to be completed in early 2021, according to a release from DoD.
"I think (the report) makes it very clear what our understanding of their intentions are and their capabilities are and how they're developing those capabilities and to what ends," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said at a Nov. 8 briefing.
"Clearly, they have invested a lot in particularly air and maritime capabilities that are designed largely to try to prevent the United States from having access to certain areas in the Indo-Pacific. What we're focused on is that pacing challenge and making sure that we maintain the right capabilities and the right operational concepts to meet our security commitments in that part of the world."