5 things to know about Guam

5 things to know about Guam
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Guam has taken the spotlight this week as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea rise to their highest point since President Trump took office.

Despite its distance from the U.S. and small size — it's roughly the size of Chicago — the island, located near Japan, is crucial to current international policy.

North Korea is threatening an attack in the waters near Guam. Such a plan, the country's military said Wednesday, will be in place by mid-August and is aimed at creating an "enveloping fire" in the island's vicinity. The specific warning followed Trump's comment that he would unleash "fire and fury" if Pyongyang continued to make threats against the U.S.


The threat targets an island that is home to U.S. military personnel, as well as 160,000 nonmilitary citizens.

Here are five more things to know about Guam:

It's a U.S. territory 

Guam was ceded to the United States by Spain in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American War, making it a U.S. territory and its residents American citizens by birth. 

Residents are represented in the House by a nonvoting delegate

Unlike U.S. citizens in the states, Guamanians are not permitted to vote for president and have only one at-large delegate to represent them in the U.S. House. 

That delegate — currently Madeleine BordalloMadeleine Mary BordalloThis week: Lawmakers return to mourn George H.W. Bush Guam New Members 2019 Overnight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks MORE (D) — is allowed to introduce legislation and vote in committee but isn't allowed to participate in full House votes. 

While residents of the island don't have a say in general presidential elections, primaries in the territory still count and award delegates to the winners. 

It has a huge military presence

Guam's location in the Pacific makes it a strategic location for the U.S. military. In fact, the island is home to two bases: Andersen Air Force Base on the northern end of the island and Naval Base Guam to the south.

In all, Guam hosts about 7,000 American military personnel. 

Located approximately 2,000 miles southeast of Seoul, South Korea, and 1,500 miles from Tokyo, the island is a hub for the U.S. military in the region and is where the country keeps its B-1B bombers in the Asia-Pacific region. 

Those bombers, which were originally designed to carry nuclear weapons, participated in military exercises with Japan's Air Self-Defense Force as well as South Korean forces earlier this week, according to Reuters.

Guam is also equipped with its own Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system, which is designed to protect against a potential missile attack. 

It's been threatened by North Korea before

Guam's role as a strategic military outpost makes it a prime target for North Korea's threats. 

As tensions rose between the U.S. and Pyongyang in 2013, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened three times to attack the island, though no attack materialized. But as a result, the island's residents are relatively used to living under possible threat.

Fueling the latest concerns on the island are recent advancements in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

Pyongyang has successfully developed a miniaturized nuclear warhead small enough to be fitted to one of its missiles, according to intelligence from multiple countries.

Last month, the nation successfully tested for the first time an intercontinental ballistic missile believed to be capable of striking parts of the U.S. 

Island leaders are urging calm amid the new threats

As Guam's residents woke up on Wednesday to news that North Korea was threatening an attack on the island, Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo, a Republican, posted a video on YouTube to quell concerns about the development.

The threat level, Calvo said, had not changed despite the sharp exchange of words between the Trump administration and Pyongyang. 

"I'm working with Homeland Security, the rear admiral and the United States to ensure our safety, and I want to reassure the people of Guam that currently there is no threat to our island or the Marianas,” he said.

He echoed that message during an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, saying there was "concern and worry" on the island, "but there's not panic." 

"I think it's important to be very strong," Calvo said of the U.S. response to North Korea's threats. "At the same time, be calm."

Bordallo said in a statement Tuesday that she was reassured by top Pentagon officials that the island was protected. But she also chided Trump over his inflammatory rhetoric toward North Korea, calling it "unhelpful."

"The president’s statement earlier today is concerning and unhelpful and does not lay out a clear strategy on how he will address the growing threats from North Korea," she said in a statement. "Kim Jong-Un’s reckless behavior cannot be tolerated, and I strongly urge the president to explore every avenue to peacefully respond to it and avoid further escalating this situation.”