Guam shrugs off Pyongyang’s threats of August military strike


guannWith all the sabre-rattling of North Korea and the prospect of the waters off Guam becoming a new testing ground for its intermediate-range missiles, the people of this tiny US-Pacific territory seem to be taking things in their stride.

There were no signs of panic or an exodus from the island of 163,000 people on Thursday (local time), with its wide roads clogged with commuters and commercial vehicles and shops and restaurants doing brisk trade from South Korean and Japanese tourists drawn to the island’s green hills and bright turquoise waters.

Clarissa Baumgartner, a 25-year old Guam resident, said Pyongyang’s second threat in as many days to train its ballistic missiles on Guam was not something she was taking too seriously.

“I’m not really too worried about it. I feel it would be a pretty stupid idea to do that,” she said.

“Definitely, I know Guam is a pretty good target because it’s important to the US because of the military,” she said.

US forces on the island were not immediately available for comment.It was not the first time Guam has been put on notice and similar threats made since 2013 led to the US military permanently deploying a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) interceptor system on the tiny island.

Guam’s international airport was abuzz on Thursday with inbound tourists pushing trolleys loaded with suitcases, some of the 10,000-15,000 visitors on the island on any given day.

Japanese tourists sat outdoors in coffee shops or queued in the sun for ice cream while others perused luxury goods stores or tried on surf shorts and sunglasses.

Governor Eddie Calvo described his island to those who did not know it as a “mini Hawaii” and put 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.

“We are concerned about these threats but at the same time we also want to make sure people don’t panic and go on with their lives.

Enjoy the beaches,” he said.Zhao Liang, a 35-year-old bank teller from Beijing, said she would not be cutting short her vacation over North Korea’s latest missile threats.

“There’s nothing to worry about at all and we’ll just go on with our excursion and happily shop around.”