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WATER WORLD
Guam leader backs 'punch in the nose' for Pyongyang
By Yelim LEE
Hagatna, Guam (AFP) Aug 14, 2017


Trump ramps up Guam assurances over N. Korea threat
Washington (AFP) Aug 12 - President Donald Trump on Saturday reassured Guam it was secure amid mounting regional tensions, vowing that American military forces "stand ready" to safeguard the US Pacific island territory against a belligerent North Korea.

The North has threatened to fire ballistic missiles over Japan toward the tourism-dependent idyllic island, as Pyongyang and Washington ratchet up their war of words.

With Guam's safety in the balance, Trump assured the territory's Governor Eddie Calvo: "We are with you 1000 percent, you are safe."

A member of Trump's Republican Party, Calvo insisted during the two men's call that "I have never felt more safe or so confident with you at the helm," according to his office.

"We're going to do a great job, don't worry about a thing," Trump then added. "They should have had me eight years ago, or somebody with my thought process."

Trump has warned the North that it would "truly regret" attacking the US, and that the US military is "locked and loaded." Earlier this week, he threatened "fire and fury."

The North's official KCNA news service, for its part, accused Trump in an editorial of "driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war," calling the US "the heinous nuclear war fanatic."

Key Pyongyang ally Beijing, meanwhile, has pleaded with Trump to tone down his rhetoric to prevent tensions from boiling over.

- Public warning system -

If North Korea does launch a missile strike, there is a public warning system in place and a 14-minute window to react, Guam Homeland Security said.

On Friday, it posted guidelines on its website about measures to take in the event of a nuclear attack.

"Expect to stay inside for at least 24 hours unless otherwise told by authorities," the advisory warned.

"If caught outside, do not look at the flash or fireball -- It can blind you. Take cover behind anything that might offer protection. Lie flat on the ground and cover your head."

It also offered advice on removing radioactive fallout, telling residents to "take a shower with lots of soap and water," use shampoo but avoid conditioner "because it will bind radioactive material to your hair."

- Typhoons scarier than Kim Jong Un -

And yet tourism officials are jumping on the unusually high attention to the territory as an opportunity to attract more visitors to the island of 162,000 people that draws more than 1.5 million tourists a year.

"The circumstances are unfortunate but this is a good opportunity for us to educate the world about Guam and our culture, about where we are, and who we are," Guam Visitors Bureau marketing director Josh Tyquiengco told AFP.

"Guam is more than a military base. We are a safe family destination. We reassure potential visitors that we continue to be a safe... place to visit."

He said there had only been a few booking cancellations from South Korea.

And island dwellers say they fear a powerful typhoon more than the wrath of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"Kim Jong Un is as crazy as typhoons but I am more scared of typhoons because they are real threats," said Rolando Zepeda, 57, a teacher at Saint Anthony's School.

Calvo, who noted that this is not the first time North Korea has threatened the island, bluntly told Guam residents to simply conduct their daily business "as usual."

Guam hosts two US military installations and 6,000 US soldiers -- making it an attractive target for the North.

"United States forces stand ready to ensure the safety and security of the people of Guam, along with the rest of America," the White House said in a summary of Trump's call with Calvo.

In an earlier call, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told Calvo: "We are all over this... The wonderful island of Guam is very well protected."

Guam's leader said Monday that "sometimes a bully can only be stopped with a punch in the nose", in a spirited defence of President Donald Trump's rhetoric against North Korea which has the island in its crosshairs.

While Trump's critics accuse him of inflaming tensions with Pyongyang, Guam governor Eddie Calvo said he was grateful the US leader was taking a strong stance against North Korean threats to his Pacific homeland.

"Everyone who grew up in the schoolyard in elementary school, we understand a bully," Calvo told AFP.

"(North Korean leader) Kim Jong-Un is a bully with some very strong weapons... a bully has to be countered very strongly."

Calvo, a Republican, said Trump was being unfairly criticised over his handling of the North Korea crisis, which escalated when Pyongyang announced plans to launch missiles toward Guam in a "crucial warning".

He said North Korea had threatened Guam -- a US territory which hosts two large military bases and is home to more than 6,000 military personnel -- at least three times since 2013.

Trump has responded by threatening "fire and fury", warning last week that the US military was "locked and loaded" to respond to any aggression.

"President Trump is not your conventional elected leader, what he says and how he says it is a lot different from what was said by previous presidents," Calvo said.

But he pointed out previous presidents had also used strong words to warn off Pyongyang, including Barack Obama who said last year that "we could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals".

"One president (Obama) said it one way, cool and calmly with a period... the other said fire and fury with an exclamation point, but it still leads to the same message," Calvo said.

He rejected suggestions that Trump and the North Korean dictator were as bad as each other when it came to the sabre-rattling playing out in the western Pacific.

"Well there's only one guy that has vaporised into a red mist his uncle or a general because he fell asleep in a meeting with an anti-aircraft gun, that's Kim Jong-Un," he said.

"There's only one guy that's killed his brother with one of the most toxic nerve agents ever created, that's Kim Jong-Un."

- 'Safe place to visit' -

Some regional players such as China have urged Trump to tone down his rhetoric but Calvo called on them to do more to contain Pyongyang, saying "no one wants to see a war".

"It's not only in the interests of America and its allies, but also China and Russia to see this fellow does not continue in his effort towards nuclearisation or longer-range missiles," he said.

"You're allowed to voice those opinions without going to prison, whether you're for the military or against it, unlike North Korea," he said. He acknowledged there were "varying opinions" among Guam's 160,000 residents about the huge US military presence on the island but insisted the majority of inhabitants backed it.

Calvo also dismissed criticism of the US-operated THAAD weapons system, which has been deployed in Guam and is capable of destroying intermediate-range missiles in the final phase of flight.

"It's meant not to shoot people, it's meant to shoot at missiles that kill people," he said.

Calvo said he did not expect the crisis would have a major impact on the island's tourism industry, which draws more than 1.5 million tourists a year.

"Guam's a safe place to go to. Even though all this stuff is going on in the airwaves there has been no added threat level," he said.

"I'm welcoming all the people of the world to come visit Guam, it's a beautiful place."

WATER WORLD
Guam tourism sees silver lining in North Korean threats
Hagatna, Guam (AFP) Aug 11, 2017
Tourism-dependent Guam is looking to cash in on its new-found fame as a North Korean missile target, tapping an unlikely promotional opportunity to attract visitors to the idyllic island and prove that all publicity is good publicity. Pyongyang's threats to launch four missile strikes near the US territory has stirred global curiosity in the remote Pacific destination, with it trending heavi ... read more

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