As tensions continue to escalate with North Korea, many are assessing potential targets that could be in range of the rogue nation’s burgeoning missile program. North Korea itself has begun naming some potential targets, including the U.S. territory of Guam. The island nation is well within the range of their medium range missiles and home to thousands of Americans.
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North Korea’s KCNA news agency reports that the regime is “examining the operational plan” to strike Guam.
Andersen Air Force Base, a crucial strategic location for American bombers, is on Guam. KCNA says a strike on Andersen would “send a serious warning signal to the US.”
The threat to Guam came after President Trump threatened that the Koreans, if they didn’t back off from their bellicose rhetoric, would “face fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
The American presence on Guam has made the tiny island a potential target for decades. Yet the governor, Eddie Baza Calvo, released a video statement Wednesday in which he downplayed the possibility of a North Korean attack.
“I want to reassure the people of Guam that currently there is no threat to our island or the Marianas,” he said. “I also want to remind national media that Guam is American soil and we have 200,000 Americans in Guam and the Marianas. We are not just a military installation,” he added.
CNN spoke to Robert Santos, a journalist on Guam, about the situation. “Some people are who are confident we are safe with the US bases here and others who are not so sure,” he said. “Some people believe (Trump and Kim) are clashing personalities and they speak recklessly. But here are some people who believe… that we are completely safe regardless of what happens.”
The bases on Guam are, technically speaking, on U.S. soil. The island is a territory. Their strategic importance is still significant, but not as crucial as it once was. Bases in Japan and South Korea would also carry significant weight should war arise in the region.
As of now, South Korea and Japan are supporting efforts to ease tensions. Both nations are also preparing for a North Korean attack. Trump still has the power to act unilaterally. If he does so, both countries may refuse to let Americans stage offensive attacks from the American bases, which would shift the effort back to Guam.
Guam’s Homeland Security Advisor George Charfauros told CNN that Guam is ready. “They’ve slowly developed their capabilities but we stand in high confidence with the US (Defense Department’s) ability to not only defend Guam and the surrounding areas but also the continental US… There are several layers of ballistic missile defense.”
Guam is equipped with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, which can take down missiles in flight. “Two years ago a permanent deployment of that missile system was placed on Guam,” Charfauros said.