Largely unnoticed between President Donald Trump's recent comments to the world about walking away from negotiations with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and his belief that Kim knew nothing of the mistreatment of American hostage Otto Warmbier – Trump talked about Guam.
He dislikes the launching of bomber aircraft from Andersen Air Force Guam for flyovers over South Korea as part of military exercises because: one, it's expensive; two, he believes it's "unfair" South Korea isn't helping with the cost; and three, Guam is "seven hours away" from South Korea.
The 746,987 South Korean tourists who visited Guam last year can tell Trump that's a fact fail. And the president's flight time comment is nearly double the flight time between Guam and South Korea if you're traveling by commercial jet, which takes about four hours.
For supersonic B-1s and stealth B-2 bombers which have launched from Guam, the flight time should be shorter.
A U.S. State Department transcript says during Trump's international press conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Feb. 28, the U.S. president was asked: "Do you accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state, at least for the time being? And are you thinking about reimposing the military exercises with South Korea, or will you keep it a freeze-for-freeze?"
Trump replied, "Well, you know, the military exercises, I gave that up quite a while ago because it costs us $100 million every time we do it. We fly these massive bombers in from Guam. And when I first started, a certain general said, 'Oh, yes, sir, we fly them in from Guam. It’s right next door.' Well, 'right next door' is seven hours away. And then they come and they drop millions of dollars of bombs, and then they go back and — but we would spend — I mean, we spent hundreds of millions of dollars on those exercises, and I hated to see it. I thought it was unfair."
Trump added: "And, frankly, I was, sort of, of the opinion that South Korea should help us with that. You know, we’re protecting South Korea. I think they should help us with that. So those exercises are very expensive. And I was telling the generals — I said: Look, you know, exercising is fun and it’s nice and they play the war games. And I’m not saying it’s not necessary, because at some levels it is, but at other levels it’s not. But it’s a very, very expensive thing. And you know, we do have to think about that, too."
Reporters covering the press conference didn't follow up on the Guam question.
Since 2003, B-52s, B-1s, and B-2s have maintained a continuous bomber presence in the Pacific with regularly scheduled rotations to Andersen Air Force Base, wrote Jeremiah Gertler a specialist in military aviation, in a report for the U.S. Congress in 2014.
The report states, "Capable of reaching anywhere in the U.S. (IndoPacific) Command’s ... area of responsibility with weapons ranging from conventional to nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, the (Guam-based continuous bomber presence) is one way of reassuring allies of the U.S. commitment to their defense and deterring potential adversaries in the region, including possibly China."