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Guam: Island paradise turned ballistic target
03:08 am GMT+12, 09/08/2017, Guam

The remote island paradise of Guam -- a 210-square-mile blot of land in the Pacific -- is at first glance an unlikely place for a ballistic missile crisis.
 
But the island, considered a vacationer's dream with crystal-clear waters, fabulous sunsets, white beaches, and near-perfect temperatures, has long been an important strategic U.S. military outpost.
 
And that's likely why North Korea, located roughly 2,100 miles away to the northwest, has selected it as the focal point of a high-stakes game of chicken with the United States.
 
North Korea's military said Wednesday that it is considering operational measures to strike near the U.S. strategic military installations in Guam with its intermediate range ballistic missiles, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported. Donald Trump, meanwhile, is threatening "fire and fury" on North Korea.
 
The North's official Korean Central News Agency reported that the rogue nation's military may send a strong message that it can neutralise the U.S. military bases in Guam that house nuclear bombers and other key assets.  
 
How it will play out remains to be seen. But the world is watching intently as North Korea and the U.S. are standing virtually toe-to-toe against the backdrop of one of the world's most beautiful islands, home to some 163,000 people as of 2016.
 
Among the U.S. military installations on Guam is the sprawling Andersen Air Force Base, as well as Naval Base Guam. The island's positioning in the Pacific is considered a key strategic point for U.S. military planning and presence. At least 6,000 U.S. troops are stationed there.
 
Guam's residents are considered U.S. citizens, but Guam itself is a U.S. territory and not a state. Admiral Robert Willard said in 2010 that Guam "is the farthest west U.S. territory that we own. And, you know, this is part of our nation . . . Guam is vital."
 
Guam is part of the Marianas island group, which has a noted past in the annals of U.S. military history. One of Guam's neighbour islands in the Marianas, Tinian Island, was the launching point for the atomic bomb attacks against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan at the end of World War II.
 
Tinian, easy to supply by sea and perfect for launching air attacks against Japan, was desired by the U.S. military because of its key strategic importance, according to the Atomic Heritage Foundation.  The proximity of the Marianas to North Korea -- and its history as a launching point for long-range bomb runs in Asia -- is a likely reason that the North Korean military has taken an interest in Guam.
 
Guam has had more than its share of international headlines this week. News of nearly 100 sex abuse lawsuits against Catholic priests have shaken the island..

Defence officials on Guam say there is no imminent threat to people there or in the Northern Mariana Islands after North Korea said it was examining its plans for attacking the US-held Pacific island.
 
Guam's Department of Homeland Security and Office of Civil Defense say they are monitoring North Korea with US military and government officials.
 
Guam's homeland security adviser, George Charfauros, said on Wednesday officials were confident "the US Department of Defense is monitoring this situation very closely and is maintaining a condition of readiness".
 
Charfauros in his statement urged calm and said defences were in place on Guam and its neighbouring Pacific islands for threats such as North Korea.
 
His comments came as the speaker of the Guam legislature said he hoped the island could defend itself.
 
"We're just praying that the United States and the ... defence system we have here is sufficient enough to protect us," Benjamin J Cruz told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.


SOURCE: US TODAY/AP/PACNEWS


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