What Does the US Military Do on the Island of Guam?

US Air Force B-1B Lancers flying on patrol near the Korean peninsula

US Air Force B-1B Lancers flying on patrol near the Korean peninsula

Guam is prepared and its residents feel well-protected should North Korea launch an attack on the US territory.

A drumbeat of threats by North Korea over the years has fostered a sense of resilience among the island's 162,000 inhabitants, whose lives are deeply intertwined with the United States military, which has 6,000 troops based there. The two bases combined house 7,000 USA troops. Guam is also home to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system, which can knock out intermediate-range missiles as their approach the island.

Recent days have seen a significant escalation of tensions in the region as preparations are put in place for a possible launch in Guam, Japan and South Korea.

Tourists frolic along the Tumon beach on the island of Guam, a US Pacific Territory.

The Asian country warned that it is preparing to fire four missiles over Japan and into the waters around Guam - where some 7,000 US military personnel reside among the island's population of 160,000 American citizens.

There were no signs of panic or an exodus from the island of 163,000 people on Thursday, with its wide roads clogged with commuters and commercial vehicles and shops and restaurants doing brisk trade from South Korean and Japanese tourists drawn to the island's green hills and bright turquoise waters.

Naval Base Guam is an important outpost for US fast-attack nuclear powered submarines that are a key means for gathering intelligence in the region, including off the Korean peninsula and in the South China Sea where China has been building military bases on man-made islands that have stirred tension across Asia.

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The U.S. military has said it plans to increase its presence on Guam and will move thousands of U.S. Marines now stationed in Japan to the island between 2024 and 2028.

"I'm pro military buildup", said resident Gus Aflague, 60, whose grandfather and brother both joined the U.S. Navy. "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". The plan would be sent to leader Kim Jong Un for approval just before or as the U.S. "I feel it would be a pretty stupid idea to do that", she said.

It's located 2,100 miles south of North Korea and 4,000 miles west of Hawaii.

The ARF statement expressed "grave concern" over North Korea missile tests, including the tests of what analysts have said are intercontinental ballistic missiles. "North Korea raising tension (on the Peninsula) is a serious challenge against the South Korean-US alliance and the global community".

For now, officials are instead focused on changing the missile guidelines, which allow Seoul to have ballistic missiles with a flight range capped at 800 km (497 miles), topped with a maximum 500 kg (1,102 pounds) warhead.

The government hopes to complete deployment of the system in western Japan by Saturday morning, Kyodo News said, quoting defence ministry officials.

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