Everything you need to know about Guam

Everything you need to know about Guam
By Emma Beswick
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Why is North Korea threatening Guam?

Where is Guam?


Guam is a 544 sq km sovereign US territory in the western Pacific Ocean.

Due to its strategic location between the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea, the US use the island as a military base.

Guam is the only island with a protected harbour and sufficient land for a major airport on the axis that crosses the Pacific between Hawaii and Asia.

It was a takeoff point for US B-52 bombers that attacked Hanoi during the Vietnam war.

Guam is extremely isolated with its nearest neighbour hosting a significant population, the Federated States of Micronesia, over 900km away.

The Philippines lies over 2,500 km away, Japan over 2,600 km and North Korea just under 3,380 km from its shores.

Who lives there?

Guam has an estimated population of 162,000, made up of 40% indigenous Chamorro people and 25% Filipino people.

Almost a third of its land is controlled by the US military and about 6,000 American troops are based there.

Why is North Korea threatening it?

Guam’s military significance and the fact that it is close enough to North Korea to be hit by medium and long-range missiles make it a target for Pyongyang.

When did Guam become a US territory?

The Pacific island was discovered by Portuguese explorer Magellan in 1521 and was subsequently occupied by Spanish sailors in 1526.

The island became an American colony at the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898 under the Treaty of Paris.

During World War II it was invaded by Japan but liberated in July 1944.

What drives the economy?

Along with tourism, which provides a third of the territory’s jobs, US military presence is one of the largest contributors to the island’s economy.

Are people from Guam US citizens?

Yes. However, citizens of Guam may not vote in general elections for President, as the United States Constitution grants congressional voting representation to states and Guam is a federal territory.

How do the people of Guam feel about the threat from North Korea?

“If they threaten us, bring it. The U.S. is strong. I’m pretty sure we got ‘em. I have a cousin who lives in South Korea so he texted the family chat saying don’t worry about it, go on with your lives, drink beer, have fun, enjoy the sun, so no worries.”

Peter Toves, 47, Salesperson

“We are geopolitical playthings. We know too well the consequences of war and have perfected our responses.”

Teresita L. Perez, 49, teacher


“It’s pretty scary … I know as a person who lived on Guam all her life, you’ve still got to worry about what’s happening out there, and at the same time, still go through your daily life, your daily routine.”

J’rae Tedtaotao, 26, cook

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