On Guam, the mood is calm despite being in North Korea's crosshairs

Claudine Rigal
Août 13, 2017

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) - Residents of the tiny Pacific island of Guam say they're afraid of being caught in the middle of escalating tensions between the USA and North Korea after Pyongyang announced it was examining plans for attacking the strategically important US territory. But residents are increasingly anxious over Washington's escalating war of words with North Korea.

He added, "Now is the time to rally behind our commander-in-chief...in order to protect our nation and the proud citizens of our country living in the USA territories".

About 160,000 people live on the island, which extends about 12 miles (19.31 kilometers) at its widest.

The Department of Defense on August 11 published video showing the take-off on a training mission of a B-1 bomber from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

Governor Eddie Calvo describes his island to those who don't know it as a "mini Hawaii" and puts the chances of a direct missile hit at a million-to-one because of the multi layers of Pacific defences, the last being those on Guam itself.

The possibility of a nuclear confrontation is considered remote but global alarm has been escalating in recent days. The army said in a statement distributed Wednesday, Aug. 9 by the state-run news agency that it is studying a plan to create an "enveloping fire" in areas around Guam with medium- to long-range ballistic missiles. It did so to compensate for US forces diverted from other bases in the Asia-Pacific region to fight in the Middle East. For years, North Korea has claimed Guam is within its missiles' striking distance, making furious statements each time when the USA flew powerful bombers from the island's air base to the Korean Peninsula. Their location in a USA territory means its military is just hours from potential flashpoints in the western Pacific. Altogether, 7,000 US military personnel are stationed on Guam.

Locals here remember 2013, when North Korea threatened the Andersen Air Force Base, which hosts the U.S. Pacific Command's bomber fleet.

"I'm pro military buildup", said resident Gus Aflague, 60, whose grandfather and brother both joined the U.S. Navy. Japan and South Korea vowed a strong reaction if the North were to go through with the plan. Residents do not pay USA income taxes or vote in the general election for US president. "I feel it would be a pretty stupid idea to do that", she said. "I feel safe with our military presence here — Andersen and the Navy".

Here's a closer look at Guam and its role in the US and North Korea's ongoing war of words.

Guam was claimed by Spain in 1565 and became a USA territory in 1898 during the Spanish-American War.

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