Guam governor downplays missile threat

A family dines as news about North Korea plays on a TV at an Applebee’s in Tamuning, Guam, on Aug 9, 2017.
A family dines as news about North Korea plays on a TV at an Applebee’s in Tamuning, Guam, on Aug 9, 2017. PHOTO: NYTIMES

HAGATNA (Guam) • Guam Governor Eddie Calvo yesterday downplayed North Korea's threat to attack the Pacific island, but said the US territory was "prepared for any eventuality".

In a televised address to the island's 162,000 residents, he said Guam was working with Washington "to ensure our safety".

On the streets of the capital Hagatna, there was a sense of calm. One shop worker said the threat of an attack was not even a conversation topic in her store.

Guam, home to about 6,000 US troops, is strategically located midway between the Korean peninsula and the South China Sea, and houses two US military installations - the Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam.

The remote 544 sq km island is about 3,400km south-east of North Korea, and is protected by the advanced US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence anti-missile system.

Two US B-1 bombers flew from Guam earlier this week to join South Korean and Japanese fighter jets in joint exercises on Tuesday.

The island, which advertises pristine beaches, blue skies and "world- famous sunsets", is popular with Japanese and South Korean tourists. Its economy depends primarily on tourism and the US military.

Guam, settled about 4,000 years ago by its indigenous Chamorros, who now make up less than 40 per cent of the population, was ceded by Spain to the US in 1898. It was captured and held for 21/2 years by Japan during World War II before being retaken by US forces in 1944.

In 1950, Guam was recognised as a territory of the United States, granting its people US citizenship. But as it is not a state, the islanders cannot vote for the president and their congressional representative is a non-voting member.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2017, with the headline 'Guam governor downplays missile threat'. Print Edition | Subscribe