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Governor Calls for New Navy Base in Alaska

FILE - In this Tuesday, April 18, 2017, file photo, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker addresses reporters during a news conference in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, April 18, 2017, file photo, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker addresses reporters during a news conference in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)

PALMER, Alaska -- Alaska's governor wants the Defense Department to open a new U.S. Navy base in the state in response to North Korea's nuclear threat.

Gov. Bill Walker, a Republican, issued a statement Sept. 3 calling for the creation of a new base in response to North Korea's latest nuclear test -- its sixth and biggest to date.

The regime claimed it tested a hydrogen bomb at the Punggye-ri test site. Officials with the Alaska Earthquake Center said the test registered as a 6.3 magnitude seismic event, indicating the weapon may have, indeed, been thermonuclear.

Walker said recent calls for a "comprehensive strategy" for deterrence by Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who sits on the Committee on Foreign Relations, highlight the need for a Navy base on the coast of Alaska.

"A navy base in Alaska can be a key part of this strategy," Walker said in a statement. "Our location provides the quickest access to Asia for any base, which would also be under the protective umbrella of the missile defense unit at Fort Greely, which protects most of North America.

"This combination assures a powerful force for military deterrence will remain available to our commander-in-chief even if North Korea or another rogue nation were to launch a missile attack," he added. "Such a base would also provide key support for collaborative exercises and training with the maritime forces of our allies."

Alaska is home to two Army posts; two Air Force bases; and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, which houses Army and Air Force units; the Alaska National Guard; and Marine Corps Reserve and Coast Guard members. The state is also home to a series of Coast Guard stations.

Although there is currently no Navy base in Alaska, several thousand sailors are attached to various units in the state.

Alaska has been on the frontlines of war before. During World War II, the Aleutian Islands chain in the then-territory of Alaska saw action during the Battle of Attu as U.S. forces fought to remove Japanese garrisons from the islands.

Although mainland Alaska never saw action during the war, a series of fortifications was built along the coast.

Fear that the Japanese would invade Alaska also prompted the construction of the 1,420-mile Alaska Canada Military Highway, known today as the Al-Can.

It is unclear where along the state's massive coastline a new Navy base would be constructed. Much of the coastline is accessible only by plane or boat.

"As made clear during World War II, Alaskans understand what it means to be on the frontline of defending this nation," Walker said in the statement. "Alaskans also understand what it means to be attacked on U.S. soil by a foreign nation. The time is now to make our lands safer for today and for future generations."

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @amybushatz.

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