The Department of Defense is set to begin construction on a new naval base in the Pacific-island nation of Palau, with a private contractor awarded more than $100 million for the installation, which will house a new advanced radar system.
The Navy announced the new project late last month, saying Gilbane Federal would receive just over $118 million for “the construction of reinforced concrete pads and foundations in support of the installation of the Tactical Mobile Over-the-Horizon Radar equipment in the Republic of Palau.”
The total cost of the Palau military base is unclear, as the DoD has been somewhat secretive about the project, but the Pentagon has voiced hopes the radars will improve its “over the horizon” capabilities in the region.
Set to span two separate sites located 60 miles apart, Washington’s new base in the Pacific will add to a network of over 750 American military bases across the globe. Over the past decade, three successive presidents have poured significant tax dollars into increasing the US military presence in the Indo-Pacific, as Washington prepares for potential conflicts with Beijing and, to a lesser extent, Pyongyang.
In recent years, the United States has attempted to rally its allies in the region against China, including efforts to breathe new life into the Quadrilateral Security Dialog – dubbed by some as the ‘Asian NATO’ – as well as the three-way AUKUS deal between the US, Australia and the UK, and a new trilateral defense cooperation pact inked in June with Tokyo and South Korea. Additionally, Washington has pushed its NATO partners to increase their military presence in the region, with Canada recently announcing that it would step up its naval transits through the disputed Taiwan Strait.
In an interview with the Financial Times published on Sunday, Lieutenant General James Bierman, commanding general of the Third Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) and of Marine Forces Japan, said the US is now preparing for war with China over Taiwan, drawing comparisons to American involvement in the conflict still raging in Ukraine.
“Why have we achieved the level of success we’ve achieved in Ukraine? A big part of that has been because after Russian aggression in 2014 and 2015, we earnestly got after preparing for future conflict: training for the Ukrainians, pre-positioning of supplies, identification of sites from which we could operate support, sustain operations,” he said. “We call that setting the theatre. And we are setting the theatre in Japan, in the Philippines, in other locations.”