No panic in Guam over N Korea threats

2013-04-09 09:28
Members of the 374th Airlift Wing of US Air Force work on a C-130 aircraft during the Cope North military exercises at Andersen US Air Force Base in Guam. (AP)

Members of the 374th Airlift Wing of US Air Force work on a C-130 aircraft during the Cope North military exercises at Andersen US Air Force Base in Guam. (AP)

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Hagatna - Guam resident Gina Tabonares-Reilly refuses to let North Korea's apocalyptic threats against her island home disrupt daily life, saying it would be "suicide" for Pyongyang to launch an attack.

Like many in the US territory in the western Pacific, she remains more concerned about the danger posed by the typhoons that regularly lash the island than the prospect of a missile strike from North Korea.

"At home, we discuss it from time to time but we are not making any preparations because we know that it's just sabre rattling," the 45-year-old told AFP.

"There are good enough missile interceptors underneath our waters... North Korea knows that and they are smart [enough] not to commit suicide."

Guam has been targeted in North Korea's recent statements because it is home to some 6 000 US military personnel, including Marines, submariners and bomber crews.

Located about 3 380km southeast of North Korea, the island of 180 000 people is also theoretically in range of Pyongyang's Musudan missiles, although it remains unclear whether the weapons actually work.

Tourism unaffected

Guam's Department of Homeland Security has described the likelihood of an attack as remote, noting that the island "is protected by the greatest nation and military in the world, the United States of America".

As a precaution though, it launched a campaign this week urging residents to prepare emergency supply kits and family disaster plans.

Governor Eddie Calvo said last week that he was concerned North Korea might get "one lucky shot" if it launched a strike but said the threat was not causing panic in Guam, the scene of fierce fighting in World War II.

The business-as-usual attitude was in evidence last Sunday, when the Guam International Marathon was staged alongside the white sands of Tumon Bay, attracting more than 2 000 runners.

Chito de Guzman, marketing and promotions manager for the Guam Reef Hotel, said North Korea's menacing talk had not impacted on international visitor numbers.

"It doesn't seem to affect tourism," he said. "We don't see any booking cancellations and there is no travel advisory from Japan, [South] Korea or China against coming to Guam."

‘Walking time bomb’

However, islanders constantly monitor the news to follow developments and convenience store owner Rubyjane Buhain-Redilla admitted to some anxiety about how the crisis will unfold.

"Thankfully, this has not affected my daily life," she said. "I haven't exactly made any preparations. I live right across from my store that has everything I need should I come face to face with violent disaster."

Buhain-Redilla said her main fear was the erratic nature of North Korea's young new leader Kim Jong-Un.

"With no clear concept of reality and no experience on international affairs, who knows what this kid is capable of doing?" she said.

"Can you imagine the power trip, the anxiety and pressure this kid has? He is like a walking time bomb, ready to be switched on at any time."

Joseph Meyers from Mangilao, on the island's east coast, said his main concern was not a direct missile strike but a blunder brought about by Pyongyang's brinkmanship that could spark a conflict that would engulf Guam.

"I think the chances of any attack on Guam from North Korea are very remote," he said. "The biggest danger is a miscalculation or an accidental escalation from either side that may result in an all-out war."

Read more on:    kim jong-un  |  guam  |  us  |  north korea  |  north korea nuclear programme

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