GARAPAN Saipan — Guam’s strategic location as “America in Asia” has put it in the list of three venues for the largest U.S. anti-terrorism exercise to be held next year a top Coast Guard official said.

“Being a major seaport is one of the big risks. One of the areas for threat by sea. To the extent that Guam is America in Asia the western most outpost of the U.S. in the Western Pacific so much of the shipping in the region is international. There clearly would be international implications if we do any restrictions on commercial shipping ” Capt. William R. Marhoffer commander of the U.S.  Coast Guard Sector Guam told the Journal. He said sea vessels from Indonesia drop anchor at Guam’s seaport to deliver cement and liquefied petroleum gas. Indonesia supplies the island’s LPG needs.

The U.S. repeatedly expressed concerns over radical Islamic activities in Indonesia led by the Jemaah Islamiya which is believed to be behind the 2003 bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Bali that left 202 people mostly tourists from Australia dead.

“We have to pay a little extra attention because of the security concerns from Indonesia — any cargo that comes is are checked ” Marhoffer said

The anti-terrorism exercise described by Marhoffer as “the largest in the world” will also be held in Arizon and Oregon and Arizona. Oregon’s seaport in Portland is also considered a major one. He said the exercise “will probably be in November of 2007.”

“The final schedule has not been released ” he said adding that “table top” exercises are currently being held by officials to “walk through the scenarios” and arrange agreements with individual federal state and local governments regarding their roles and responsibilities.

“Each venue will have the table top exercise before the full scale exercise to make all the players familiar with the scenario and try to work out in advance the rules and regulations ” Marhoffer said.

“A lot of people in Washington D.C. will be involved.”

The Homeland Security operation center at the Department of Homeland Security will be very involved on this.” He said this will be the fourth in a series of anti-terrorism exercises that was mandated by Congress.

“It actually pre-dates the 9/11 attacks and has been made more urgent since the 9/11 attacks. The ongoing war on terrorism has expanded ” Marhoffer said. He said the exercises usually have only two venues in the mainland. Marhoffer said other countries will also be involved.

“There will be some international participation primarily as observers. Canada is very interested. The U.K. too; I think Australia may be involved as well. As this grows a lot of friendly and allied nations will want to observe how we do our anti-terrorism exercises ” he said.

Marhoffer participated in the 2006 Annual Conference of the Association of Pacific Ports held at the Hyatt Regency Saipan from Aug. 20 to 23. The event was attended by close to 70 representatives from various ports authorities in Canada the U.S. Micronesia and Taiwan. MBJ