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Guam on alert after North Korean threats

August 12, 2017 at 4:40 PM EDT
Amid escalating rhetoric this week between President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, North Korea threatened to fire ballistic missiles toward Guam, a small Pacific island that has been a U.S. territory since 1898. Guam is about 2,100 miles southeast of North Korea and home to more than 160,000 people. Wall Street Journal reporter Lucy Craymer joins Hari Sreenivasan from Guam.
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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEEKEND ANCHOR: Amidst the escalating rhetoric between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, North Korea has threatened to fire ballistic missiles over Japan toward Guam, the small Pacific island that’s been a U.S. territory almost continuously since 1898.

Following last month’s test firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach Alaska or Hawaii, this week, President Trump told reporters any more threats by North Korea would be, quote, met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. Then, North Korea’s state-run news agency said the regime was considering a plan for an enveloping fire around Guam to signal a crucial warning to the U.S.

Guam is home to 170,000 people. It lies 4,000 miles from Hawaii and 2,000 miles southeast of North Korea. The U.S. has 7,000 troops stationed in Guam, in an Air Force base and a Navy Base.

“Wall Street Journal” reporter Lucy Craymer is in Guam and joins me now via Skype.

Lucy, the people that you talk to there, are they concerned? Are they frightened? Or are they trying to live as normally as they can?

LUCY CRAYMER, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: People are generally just getting on with their lives. I think it’s at the back of most people’s minds. It’s something you hear it talked about. I mean, as it came out earlier today, you know, there was a conversation going on in front of me in the queue.

But, you know, I was also at the beach this afternoon, and people were swimming, you know, sitting around with their families, having barbecues. Life has gone on. I think that people are aware that this could happen, but they’ve also been living with this kind of threat since the first threat was made I think about in 2013. So, this isn’t the first time for many of them that this has been thought about.

SREENIVASAN: The cover of the paper in Guam, what, Friday was 14 minutes in big block letters. That’s the amount of time they suspect they have if North Korea was to fire a missile?

CRAYMER: That’s the amount of time that Homeland Security says that they would have between when they knew and when it landed somewhere near Guam. Fourteen minutes doesn’t sound like a very long time, but they do have a siren system here in low-lying areas so that would be the first that most people would hear which would be warning them to take cover. And there’s also the radio and the television. The networks are all set up to start broadcasting any kind of imminent threat.

SREENIVASAN: The Department of Homeland Security in Guam also put out this fact sheet that almost seems like a throwback to the 1960s. It says, if caught outside, do not look at the flask or the fireball. It can blind you. I mean — and then it has detailed instructions of what to do with radioactive clothing and so on and so forth.

CRAYMER: Yes, it’s sort of something that you really have to think about. I mean, I’ve never had to think about what I would do in a nuclear attack before, either. So, it’s something that I read and have taken a few thoughts from, particularly things like not going outside, and, obviously, not looking at it, the blast, because it can blind you. It’s something that people are aware of, but you can only do so much. I mean, it’s not something that most people on the street can do anything to stop.

SREENIVASAN: What are the military defenses that are in place? Has the U.S. military put out any sort of statements or just to try to calm people in the local area?

CRAYMER: Yes, so, they’ve talked a lot about the fact that it’s not just one sort of level of defense. There’s sort of four levels. If a missile has been sent from North Korea, it’s going to probably go via South Korea. So, there’s a THAAD in South Korea that could shoot it down. And you’ve got the Patriot batteries in Japan, which would also have an opportunity to shoot it down. You’ve got U.S. ships that could shoot it down. And Guam itself has its own missile defense system.

SREENIVASAN: All right. So, it’s got to get through all of those.

Lucy Craymer joining us via Skype from Guam today from “The Wall Street Journal”, thanks so much.

CRAYMER: No problem.

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