After decades of living peacefully, Guam authorities are urging their citizens to be prepared for an "imminent" missile attack from North Korea after the rogue state threatened to unleash "enveloping fire" at the small island sitting 9,700km from the US mainland.
Although most South Koreans loathe the repressive regime in the North and its nuclear pursuit, they also are afraid that the South has more to lose in a war than the impoverished North, a fear that the regime of Kim Jong-un, the North's leader, has been using as leverage.
Japan's missile defences include sea and land components.
After North Korea's second test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on July 28, South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered a speedy deployment of the controversial U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense system, reversing his earlier decision to postpone it pending an environmental review.
Narushige Michishita, of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo, said...
If North Korea launches missiles on Guam, it would take only about 14 minutes for the rockets to reach the U.S. territory, the island's Homeland Security spokeswoman announced.
It's located 2,100 miles south of North Korea and 4,000 miles west of Hawaii.
Meanwhile, US-South Korean joint military exercises are due to begin later this month.
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"A catastrophe is looming", the South's top-selling said in an editorial this week. "And we should be prepared too". US bombers have flown over the Korean Peninsula several times to show American strength after Pyongyang's missile tests.
The trajectory and estimated target point can be calculated within minutes of launch.
"The greatest threat to both states remains shorter range artillery, artillery rockets and stockpiles of short-to-medium range missiles". "In this regard, North Korea's recently issued statements of threats are in direct opposition to the worldwide community's consensus, and must stop immediately".
Conservative lawmakers in Seoul in recent days have even called for a "nuclear balance" on the peninsula, saying Seoul should ask Washington to redeploy USA nuclear weapons if South Korea is unable to develop its own.
While experts estimate the consequences and economic impact of an imminent USA vs North Korea war, some Guamanians are stockpiling essentials to survive while taking shelter if Pyongyang makes good on its promise to strike the island. In violation of that agreement as well as U.N. Security Council resolutions, North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests.
"The (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons", Mattis told the North Korea leader in a Department of Defense press release.
Trump's rhetoric toward North Korea has sparked criticism.
In addition to the military presence, Guam also relies heavily on tourism to boost its economy, attracting more than 1.5 million visitors drawn to its pristine beaches and luxury resorts in 2016. "North Korea raising tension (on the Peninsula) is a serious challenge against the South Korean-US alliance and the global community". Other clues indicate that high-priority targets could be strategic military sites rather than population centers.