Guam residents fear attack after North Korea statements

The U.S. territory is home to Andersen Air Force Base.

Here's a closer look at Guam and its role in the US and North Korea's ongoing war of words.

Guam, with a 2016 population of nearly 163,000, has been fought over for centuries. The air base was built in 1944, when the US was preparing to send bombers to Japan during World War II.

Though local officials downplayed any threat, people who live and work on the island, which serves as a launching pad for the US military, said Wednesday they could no longer shrug off the idea of being a potential target. For years, North Korea has claimed Guam is within its missiles' striking distance, making furious statements each time when the US flew powerful bombers from the island's air base to the Korean Peninsula. It noted which weapons it would use (intermediate range ballistic missiles), how many of them (four) - and the timing: sometime before the end of this month. It has two 2-mile (3-kilometre) -long runways and large fuel and munitions storage facilities.

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The strip of land in the western Pacific Ocean is roughly the size of Chicago, and just 4 miles (6 km) wide at its narrowest point. In the spring of 2013, state media cited leader Kim Jong Un as having ordered his military to prepare plans on launching strikes on US military bases in Guam, Hawaii and South Korea as well as the American mainland.

Jacob Martinez, 29, a purchasing officer at a high-end hotel, said he was frustrated that Guam, an island smaller than Singapore and about 11,000 km away from the USA mainland, might be dragged into a major conflict.

The U.S. military began rotating bombers - the B-2 stealth bomber as well as the B-1 and B-52 - to Andersen in 2004.

In 2013, the Army sent a missile defense system to Guam called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense or THAAD. It's created to destroy ballistic missiles during their final phase of flight.

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The U.S. took control of Guam in 1898, when Spanish authorities surrendered to the U.S. Navy. They threatened USA, other countries, and they threaten Guam. The Navy used the island as a coaling base and communications station until Japan seized the island on December 10, 1941. Guam was also a refueling and transfer spot for people heading to Southeast Asia, and many refugees fleeing Saigon were evacuated through Guam.

Resident Isaac Camacho, 19, says he feels Guam's relationship with the USA mainland is "a little misunderstood on their part".

"North Korea's most recent threat to target Guam is risky and it further heightens tensions in our region", Bordallo said.

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