TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — If the United States would have to pull back its armed forces out of the western half of the Pacific during a military conflict, it would choose Wake Island between Japan and Hawaii as its major fallback center, according to media reports.
However, in the other direction, the island could also function as “a staging ground in a crisis for air combat missions heading west,” website The Drive reported. The publication named Russia but especially China as potential targets for missions using Wake Island.
According to satellite photos, the U.S. has completely rebuilt and significantly expanded its airfield on the island, one of the most remote atolls in the world. The runway is 9,800 feet long, “long enough to accommodate anything in the Pentagon’s inventory,” The Drive writes.
The facility also includes launchpads for missile tests but has mostly been used as a landing point for military flights between the U.S. and Asia. Access to the unincorporated U.S. territory is restricted, while the Marshall Islands claim sovereignty over the atoll.
The satellite images show that major construction work has been going for months and was still continuing in late June, The Drive reported.
While Guam lies within range of China’s and North Korea’s medium-range ballistic missiles, Wake Island, 1,500 miles east of Guam, sits outside that range, and almost at the end of the range of their intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
A military conflict with China would start “incredibly violent and fast-moving,” with U.S. bases in Okinawa, Guam and the Marianas too vulnerable to an immense number of missiles likely to be fired from China, making Wake Island the ideal fallback position, according to The Drive.