Residents of the tiny Pacific island of Guam say they’re afraid of being caught in the middle of escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea after Pyongyang announced it was examining plans for attacking the strategically important U.S. territory.
Though local officials downplayed any threat, people who live and work on the island, which serves as a launching pad for the U.S. military, said yesterday they could no longer shrug off the idea of being a potential target.
“I’m a little worried, a little panicked. Is this really going to happen?” said Cecil Chugrad, a 37-year-old bus driver for a tour bus company in Guam. “If it’s just me, I don’t mind, but I have to worry about my son. I feel like moving [out of Guam] now.”
Guam is used to the threats from North Korea but advances in the country’s nuclear program paired with fiery rhetoric from President Donald Trump has raised the already high animosity and heightened worries that a miscalculation might spark conflict between the nuclear-armed nations.
While it is extremely unlikely that Pyongyang would risk the assured annihilation of its revered leadership with a pre-emptive attack on U.S. citizens, some residents are concerned.
“If anything happens, we all got to be ready, be prepared, and pray to God that it doesn’t happen,” Daisy Mendiola, 56, said after finishing lunch with her family at a restaurant near Hagatna. “Everyone’s afraid, because we’re dealing with power that’s beyond us.”
Other residents are worried about the political atmosphere and the government’s ability to find a peaceful solution.
Todd Thompson, a lawyer who lives on Guam, said he laughed off past threats because he “figured cooler heads in Washington would prevail, and it was just an idle threat.”
“But I have to say, I’m not laughing now,” Thompson said. “My concern is that things have changed in Washington, and who knows what’s going to happen?”
His brother Mitch Thompson, who also lives on Guam, added he believes “a lot of people have no confidence that the White House will do the right thing under the circumstances.”
Guam is armed with the U.S. Army’s defense system known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which can intercept missiles. MDT/AP