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WATER WORLD
Guam residents pray for peace as North Korea deadline looms
by Staff Writers
Hagatna, Guam (AFP) Aug 13, 2017


Kim Jong Un 'crazy as typhoons' but not as scary, say Guam residents
Hagatna, Guam (AFP) Aug 12, 2017 - Guam residents say that if given the choice they would rather face the wrath of "crazy" Kim Jong Un than the power of a typhoon, as they count down towards a threatened North Korean missile attack.

As Pyongyang's deadline drew closer, the archbishop of the predominately Catholic US territory urged priests to pray for peace at Sunday mass and prepared for a peace rally in the capital Hagatna.

But on the streets the outward appearance remained calm, with the main concern being the approach of the typhoon season.

"To be honest, I'm more worried about the projectiles from the typhoons when we get strong winds than whatever projectiles Kim Jong Un says he will launch on Guam," Janice Furukawa, a 58-year-old mother, said as she prepared her typhoon emergency kit at her home in the western village of Piti.

North Korea, angered by US President Donald Trump's threat of "fire and fury", has promised to have plans ready in a matter of days to launch an "enveloping fire" of missiles at Guam, which houses two large US military bases and is home to more than 6,000 US military personnel.

Trump has vowed to protect the western Pacific island and in a call to Guam Governor Eddie Calvo on Saturday "reassured" him that "United States forces stand ready to ensure the safety and security of the people of Guam, along with the rest of America".

Roman Catholic archbishop Michael Byrnes asked priests in a statement to "offer prayers for peace between our nations, just resolution of differences".

Rolando Zepeda, 57, a teacher at Saint Anthony's School, said he was not making any emergency plans ahead of a North Korean attack.

"But I am always quick to shutter up whenever we get typhoon advisories or tsunami warnings," he said.

"Kim Jung Un is as crazy as typhoons but I am more scared of typhoons because they are real threats."

- 'We always survive' -

North Korea previously threatened to attack Guam back in 2013, leading Calvo to play down the latest potential crisis and instead remind the 162,000 residents they should prepare for the inevitable typhoon.

"You know typhoons can strike anytime... so that means, families are making family emergency plans and kits together," he said.

"With that, everybody should conduct their lives like business as usual. It's the weekend. Go out, have a good time."

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

On Friday it posted guidelines on its website about what to do 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."

Resident Furukawa, who lived through Typhoon Paka which left 5,000 homeless and more than 30 percent of public buildings seriously damaged in 1997, said people in Guam were resilient.

"We always survive. It's the recovery period that is hard. But survival is part of our culture," she said.

Guam's modern building code demands houses and buildings be able to withstand winds of up to 160 miles per hour (260 km/h).

"Based on what we have in this community, we have been able to withstand a category 5 hurricane," Calvo said, adding that school buildings were designated as public shelters and could cope with major disasters.

"A category 2 or 3 typhoon would cause major damage in many communities around the world but not in Guam," he said.

The Catholic faithful in Guam led prayers for peace Sunday in the shadow of North Korean missile threat, with the western Pacific island's archbishop appealing for "prudence" amid an escalating war of words between the US and Pyongyang.

The largely Catholic territory should pray for a "just resolution of differences, and prudence in both speech and action", said Archbishop Michael Byrnes, echoing a flurry of international calls for US President Donald Trump to show greater rhetorical restraint.

A "prayers for peace" lunchtime rally in the capital Hagatna drew around 100 people. But despite Guam having become the centre of a threatened showdown between the United States and nuclear-armed North Korea, many said they were unfazed.

"I am really not scared because if it's our time to die it is our time to die," added Sita Manjaras, 62, a retired teacher from Tamuning.

Father Mike Crisostomo said their response to the threat was to have faith and pray.

"This goes to show to the other worlds, to the other nations and the countries, that Guam maybe small, our faith and our trust is big," he said.

Dora Salazar, 82, who made the 14 kilometre (nine mile) journey from the village of Mangilao for the peace rally, said she was praying for the North's leader Kim Jong-Un.

"We pray that God will touch his heart," she said.

- 'Fire and fury' -

In response to Trump's threat of "fire and fury", North Korea has pledged to have plans ready in a matter of days to launch an "enveloping fire" of missiles towards Guam.

At the island's main church, the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica, Father Paul Gofigan told the congregation to be prepared in case North Korea does launch its missiles.

"What would you do if you have only 14 minutes left? The thing to do is pray and reflect," he said

"Prioritise your life. This is a wake-up call, no matter what happens".

Trump has been engaged all week in verbal sparring with the North over its weapons and missile programs, declaring Friday that the US military is "locked and loaded."

He has told Guam Governor Eddie Calvo that US military was prepared to "ensure the safety and security of the people of Guam."

While 85 percent of Guam's 162,000 residents are Catholic, with temperatures hovering around 31 degrees Celsius (88 Fahrenheit) many locals and tourists preferred to head to the beach rather than church.

"No one feels threatened. Should we? Definitely not," said Australian tourist Kirstie Bridgement.

"Guam is the most protected island. We feel safer than ever."

The island houses two large US military bases and is home to more than 6,000 US military personnel.

American tourist Bryan Sanchez said it was difficult to understand the threat "especially with the way culture is like with memes, anything is going to be turned into a joke.

"People just aren't, I guess, as aggressive or too worried about that kind of stuff in our day and age."

Meanwhile, two community groups opposed to the presence of the US military in Guam, Independent Guahan and Prutehi Litekyan, have organised a "People for Peace" rally in Hagatna on Monday.

"What's happening in Guam is a global issue, because if our island is attacked, it could be the catalyst for a global catastrophe," Kenneth Gofigan Kuper of the Independent Guahan movement said.

The rally organisers said in a statement that "Guam has been forced in the middle of other nations' conflicts, particularly as an unincorporated territory of the United States.

"As a result, many of Guam's people know the painful and horrific effects of war as World II survivors and as veterans.

"Thus, the members of Independent Guahan and Prutehi Litekyan, both organisations dedicated to the decolonisation and demilitarisation of Guam, feel it is imperative for the community to stand together in a call for peace."

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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