Guam residents react to diplomatic standoff between US, DPRK

World Today

Guam is caught in the middle of heated rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang.

A U.S. Army colonel on the island said his forces train 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, and they’re always ready to respond to any threat.

CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg reports from America’s most-western military posting.

Tourists in Guam regularly see reenactments of the traditional Chamorro culture. What they rarely get to see, however, is the American military training for war.

The island is just 3,400 kilometers from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s capital Pyongyang, but three times as far from Washington D.C.

It is often called the tip of America’s spear, but as locals know, the tip is usually the first to break during war. Guam is the only American territory that has ever fallen to foreign hands. For three years during World War II, the Japanese occupied the island before the U.S. could retake control.

The military is a growing part of the island. A decade ago, the federal government approved a build-up to prepare for a boost in the number of soldiers, which may help explain why the DPRK said it plans to fire four missiles to land near the island.

That plan is unnerving many of the 160,000 residents.

“It’s kind of scary, but then again you know we got to trust in our president, trust in our military and stuff like that,” local resident Jenica said. “We’re a really small island so hopefully it is like a one-in-ten chance we’re going to get hit.”

Still, some dismiss the threat.

Speaker of the Guam legislature B.J. Cruz is an outspoken critic of the American military build-up on the island.

“Guam has always been vulnerable to attack. It’s more just to make us feel comfortable,” Cruz believes. “ I don’t think that it does anything more, because I really don’t think that any missile that was sent from Korea would get past Japan before it was already taken out of the air.”

The majority of islanders support the build-up and the U.S. military’s presence. One person said it’s a reality they’ve accepted and learned to live with. The island relies on the military and tourism to help support the economy here.