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This U.S. state is not governed by the NATO treaty, and some experts say it needs to change


Sweden becomes NATO’s newest member Earlier this month, it joined a security alliance of 31 countries, including the United States. Well, the United States is 49 out of 50 countries.

Because due to geographical and historical peculiarities, Hawaii does not technically fall under the jurisdiction of the NATO treaty.

If a foreign power attacked Hawaii—such as the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor or the Indo-Pacific Command headquarters northwest of Honolulu—NATO members would have no obligation to defend the Aloha State.

“It’s the weirdest thing,” said David Santoro, president of the Pacific Forum think tank in Honolulu, adding that even most Hawaii residents don’t know their state has technically seceded from the union.

Sailors aboard the USS Decatur pay their respects as they pass the USS Arizona Memorial and the lost USS Arizona during the 82nd Pearl Harbor Memorial Day Ceremony at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. -Mengshin Lin/Associated Press

Sailors aboard the USS Decatur pay their respects as they pass the USS Arizona Memorial and the lost USS Arizona during the 82nd Pearl Harbor Memorial Day Ceremony at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. -Mengshin Lin/Associated Press

“People tend to think that Hawaii is part of the United States and therefore it falls under NATO jurisdiction,” he said.

However, he admitted that the report was made in the name of the alliance—— North Atlantic treaty organizations.

Of course, Hawaii is located in the Pacific Ocean. Unlike California, Colorado, or Alaska, Hawaii is the 50th state in the contiguous United States and is not part of the area that stretches from the East Coast to the North Atlantic.

“The reason for not including Hawaii is simply that it is not part of North America,” Santoro said.

This exception was detailed in the Treaty of Washington, which established NATO in 1949, a decade before Hawaii became a state.

While Article 5 of the treaty provides for collective self-defence in the event of military attack on any member state, Article 6 limits its geographical scope.

Article 6 states: “An armed attack against one or more Contracting Parties is deemed to include an armed attack against the territory of any Contracting Party in Europe or North America.” It also provides that any island territory must be located in the North Atlantic, north of the Tropic of Cancer.

A U.S. State Department spokesman confirmed that Hawaii is not governed by Article 5, but said Article 4 provides that members will consult when the “territorial integrity, political independence, or security” of any member is threatened, and that provision should cover any possible impact. The situation in Hawaii. 50th State.

The spokesman also said any treaty amendment to include Hawaii would be unlikely to gain consensus because other member states have territories beyond Article 5 boundaries.

For example, NATO did not join the war between founding member Britain and Argentina in 1982 after Argentine forces invaded the Falkland Islands, a disputed British territory in the South Atlantic.

NATO has not yet responded to CNN’s request for comment.

Hawaii, Guam, Taiwan and North Korea

Some experts say times have changed in the decades since the Washington Treaty was signed, and argue that today’s political situation in the Indo-Pacific region may need a rethink.

That’s because U.S. military bases in Hawaii could play a vital role in countering North Korean aggression and supporting any potential defenses. Taiwan.

China’s ruling Communist Party claims the self-governing democratic island as its territory, although it has never controlled it. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made “unification” with Taiwan a key part of his overall goal of “reviving” the country by 2049.

Although Chinese leaders have expressed a desire to control the island through peaceful meansthey have not ruled out doing so through force – and have stepped up efforts military intimidation conditions on the island in recent years.

The Taiwan Relations Act obligates Washington to provide weapons for Taiwan’s defense, and US President Biden has Suggesting he would use U.S. military personnel to defend China if it invaded (although White House officials said there had been no change in U.S. policy of ambiguity on the issue).

A 2022 War Game Deduction The Center for a New American Security envisions a scenario in which China attacks U.S. command and control facilities in Hawaii as part of its war to seize Taiwan by force.

John Hemings, senior director of the Pacific Forum’s Indo-Pacific Foreign and Security Policy Program, said Hawaii’s exclusion from NATO removes a “deterrence factor” when it comes to the possibility of China attacking Hawaii in support of any potential Taiwan. . Activity.

Excluding Hawaii lets Beijing know that there might be some “escape clauses” for European NATO members when it comes to defending U.S. territory in this hypothetical scenario, he said.

“Why don’t we have that deterrent element at our disposal? If it’s really going to stop (China) from invading Taiwan, why would we leave it out,” Hemings said.

View of a row of battleships during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, and Oahu, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. Explosions damaged three American battleships. From left to right, the USS West Virginia, the USS Tennessee, and the USS Arizona. - U.S. Navy/Provisional Archives/Getty ImagesView of a row of battleships during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, and Oahu, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. Explosions damaged three American battleships. From left to right, the USS West Virginia, the USS Tennessee, and the USS Arizona. - U.S. Navy/Provisional Archives/Getty Images

View of a row of battleships during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, and Oahu, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. Explosions damaged three American battleships. From left to right, the USS West Virginia, the USS Tennessee, and the USS Arizona. – U.S. Navy/Provisional Archives/Getty Images

Hawaii’s strategic importance also has profound historical significance to the United States. “This is where Pearl Harbor happened. This is where we were attacked, which led us into World War II, which, by the way, also led to us helping to liberate France,” he said.

“For Americans, there is a direct connection between this country and our participation in World War II and our ultimate contribution to helping defeat the Axis Powers (the alliance of Nazi Germany, Japan and Italy).”

Hemings also advocated bringing the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam, about 3,000 miles west of Hawaii, into the NATO umbrella.

The island has been a The focus of North Korea’s military threatsIt is home to Andersen Air Force Base, from which the United States launches B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers across the Indo-Pacific region.

Hemings’s exclusion of Guam from NATO was like the United States’ exclusion of the Korean Peninsula from a line drawn in the Pacific in January 1950 to prevent the Soviet Union and China from spreading communism. Five months after the so-called Acheson Line was drawn, the American War in Korea began.

“Adversaries have the courage to initiate military conflict, but war will eventually break out anyway,” Hemings said.

pacific forum Santoro also mentioned that Guam should be brought under the NATO umbrella. “Strategically speaking, Guam is definitely much more important than Hawaii,” he said.

A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber assigned to the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on February 14, 2024, as part of a routine Bomber Task Force mission. - Master Sgt. Amy Pickard/U.S. Air ForceA U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber assigned to the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on February 14, 2024, as part of a routine Bomber Task Force mission. - Master Sgt. Amy Pickard/U.S. Air Force

A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber assigned to the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on February 14, 2024, as part of a routine Bomber Task Force mission. – Master Sgt. Amy Pickard/U.S. Air Force

“Coalition of the Willing”

Other analysts believe that in the event of such a hypothetical attack on Hawaii or Guam, the deep and enduring ties between the United States and its Democratic allies would be more important in each country’s decision-making than the technical details of the NATO treaty.

Luis Simon, director of the Center for Security Studies, said that in the event of an attack, “I expect… the United States will try to form a coalition of the willing with major (but certainly not) regional allies.” Diplomacy and Strategy, School of Governance, Brussels, Belgium.

Simon cited NATO’s strong response immediately after the 9/11 attacks, which was the only time in NATO’s 74-year history that the collective self-defense mechanism was triggered under Article 5.

“But Washington actually chose to respond through a coalition of the willing rather than through a NATO command,” he said. “I suspect that we would see a similar response in the event of an attack on Guam or Hawaii, where the United States would want to retain control over (the response) ) full military control and diplomatic flexibility.”

Simon also said he could not see any real light between NATO membership and its commitment to the United States and NATO.

NATO is the cornerstone of the transatlantic community of democracies. In the face of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the United States and other NATO members asserted unprecedented unity among the alliance. In recent years, NATO has also stepped up its common rhetoric against China, vowing to address the issue. They called it a “systemic challenge” posed by Beijing.

“I personally have no doubt that if sovereign territory of the United States were attacked, they would be ready to provide assistance in different forms, both individually and through multilateral venues such as the (European Union) or NATO,” he said.

CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

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