Hagatna, Guam (CNN).It is the very small island in the eye of a storm that is geopolitical.
North Korea has threatened to strike Guam, a US territory in the Pacific famous for its white-sand shores, after the US President’s threat to unleash “fire and fury” from Pyongyang.
The country’s military leaders are finalizing a plan to present to Kim Jong Un from mid-August to fire four intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missiles over Japan to property less than 25 miles (40 kilometers) in the Guam, said media reported Thursday.
For Pyongyang, Guam is seen as a prime target because it is the closest US military presence on American land to North Korea, also because military resources from here are occasionally deployed close to the Korean Peninsula.
That closeness has long put it in North Korea’s crosshairs, however, the escalating war of words has set this land of 160,000 civilians on edge.
“I am not saying we shouldn’t worry because we never know if they will opt to follow through this time,” said Tayana Pangelinan, a resident of Dededo, the island’s most populated village.
“But, considering Guam supposedly has a enormous quantity of weapons, all I can do is pray and hope all will be OK.”
Arriving on the island Wednesday, life seems to be proceeding as normal.
Asian travelers, largely Japanese and South Koreans, are nonetheless landing at the airport and it is hard to locate a room at one of the holiday hotels scattered around the island. Tourist arrivals in July struck a record for that month.
- The tiny Pacific island, the largest in the Marianas group, is home to 2 important US military bases.
- Bomber sorties flown above South Korea Tuesday originated from Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base.
- About 5,000 US military personnel are located on the island, and it is a US territory.
- It’s often referred to as the “tip of the spear” and home to the US’ most westerly military installments.
- Except US bases in Japan and South Korea, it is the closest US foundation to North Korea.
“Welcome to Ground Zero,” a US customs official joked on birth, aware of the North Korean threat however laughing it off with a bit of gallows humor.
In addition to tourists, the island also hosts roughly 5,000 US troops at two US military bases. Dubbed the “tip of the spear,” Guam is an integral to the US army’s forward deployed presence in the Pacific.
Its significance has diminished since World War II, given the production of military bases in Japan and South Korea, but analysts say it still plays a significant part in the Pacific.
Confidence in army
Many vacationers in Guam are confident from the security given by the US army.
As part of its defenses on Guam, the US set up a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in 2013. The THAAD system is specifically designed to shoot down ballistic missiles. Additionally, that the US routinely utilizes Aegis-equipped warships around the island chain of the Marianas, where Guam is the largest.
“North Korea has a fantastic fight in their hands if they’re going to try to mess with Guam,” said resident Andrea Salas.
But, Jeremiah Tenorio said even with all the THAAD in place, he is still concerned.
“There’s no real protection against a missile, in my estimation.”
Guam Governor Eddie Baza Calvo reassured the island’s inhabitants that there wasn’t any change in the threat level resulting from North Korea.
He told CNN that although there was some fear, people were accustomed to living with North Korean posturing.
However, he voiced some concern over the current statements of several US politicians, singling out Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham.
Last week, Graham stated “If there is going to be a war to stop them, it will be more than there. If thousands die, they’re likely to die over there, they’re not likely to die here and (President Donald Trump) told me that to my face.”
Calvo implied that this was dangerous talk.
“If there was to be conflict in this area, understand that there is an archipelago, 600 miles long called the Marianas that encircles two US territories — Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“You are also talking over 200,000 American citizens, civilians, that’ll be captured in the crosshairs.”
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