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War Threats Have Become Background Noise in South Korea

14 August 2017

"In the President's words they are behind us '1,000 percent.' As the head of the Government of Guam, I appreciate their reassurances that my family, my friends, everyone on this island, are all safe".

North Korea's acquisition of nuclear weapons and its development of an array of missiles to deliver them have raised the stakes further.

Guam is home to about 163,000 people and a USA military base. During the missiles' flight, should the United States try to intercept them, knowing they will not come anywhere near Guam?

Over the past two years, the North has conducted dozens of missile tests of various designs.

AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla Jr. was not discounting the possibility that the Philippines may be hit if North Korea proceeds with its threat of a missile strike against Guam, which is situated about 1,500 miles to the west of the Philippines and just more than 2,000 miles from North Korea. Protecting the island is the U.S. Army's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which is used to shoot down ballistic missiles.

Commenting on the war of words between the United States and North Korea, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the risks of a full-fledged war between the United States and North Korea are "very high". American tourist Bryan Sanchez said it was hard to understand the threat "especially with the way culture is like with memes, anything is going to be turned into a joke".

"It would be very hard to eliminate that threat before the artillery fire could create a lot of damage on the southern side", said David Shear, who served as the senior U.S. defence official for east Asia under former President Barack Obama.

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In response to North Korea's continued military provocations, President Trump on Tuesday issued a controversial - some say unprecedented - warning to Jong-un that the small Asian country would face a torrential downpour of "fire and fury like the world has never seen".

The main beach front was busy with tourists dozing under trees or on the sun loungers of five-star hotels lined up before a calm sea where people in kayaks collided with swan-shaped pedalos and inflatable hoops.

Guam is a launching point for US strategic bombers that the North, virtually flattened by USA bombs during the 1950-53 Korean War, sees as particularly threatening.

"We are concerned about these threats but at the same time we also want to make sure people don't panic and go on with their lives".

The Hankyoreh newspaper called for South Korea's government to take on a bigger role in solving the North Korean nuclear problem.

"We have to understand that even in a million-to-one scenario we have to be prepared with Guam being what it has been for decades, an American territory with strategic military assets in place in a very dynamic region".

"This could elevate the threats to an unprecedented level".

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"North Korea is likely to push ahead with the missile launches, if they think they can get away with it", said senior research fellow Yang Uk at the Korea Security and Defence Forum.

Japan relies on a two-layered system in its missile defenses.

North Korea has repeatedly accused Seoul of abducting the women, and is refusing to agree to bilateral "humanitarian cooperation" until they are returned to the reclusive state.

Clarissa Baumgartner, a 25-year old Guam resident, said Pyongyang's second threat in as many days to train its ballistic missiles on Guam wasn't something she was taking too seriously.

The United States and South Korea remain technically still at war with North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

The non-nuclear bombers would be supported by satellites, drones and fighter jets. Trump has said he will not allow Pyongyang to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States.

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War Threats Have Become Background Noise in South Korea