North Korea’s military is “examining the operational plan” to strike areas around the US territory of Guam with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic missiles, state-run news agency KCNA said early Wednesday local time.
Specifically, the statement mentioned a potential strike on Andersen Air Force Base designed “to send a serious warning signal to the US.”
The base is one of two on the Pacific island, which are the closest bases on US soil to North Korea, and represent the westernmost tip of the country’s military might.
Guam’s governor, Eddie Baza Calvo, released a video address Wednesday, reassuring the island’s residents that there was no change in the threat level resulting from North Korea.
“I want to reassure the people of Guam that currently there is no threat to our island or the Marianas,” he said.
“I also want to remind national media that Guam is American soil and we have 200,000 Americans in Guam and the Marianas. We are not just a military installation,” he added.
Speaking from Guam, journalist Robert Santos said local reaction to the threats was mixed.
“Some people are who are confident we are safe with the US bases here and others who are not so sure,” he said.
Dubbed the “tip of the spear,” Guam is a key to the US military’s forward deployed presence in the Pacific and is home to thousands of American service members and their families.
Its importance has declined since the Second World War, given the creation of military bases in Japan and South Korea, says Carl Schuster, a Hawaii Pacific University professor and former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center. Now it is essentially a staging area, which sees rotations of bomber groups coming through.
“Guam is the western most US territory that has major military bases. If you (were to) pull (the US) out of Japan and South Korea it’s the next best location in the Pacific,” says Schuster.