Guam is suddenly the focus of intense media attention after North Korea ostentatiously threatened to attack it with missiles. The governor of Guam, Eddie Calvo, backed President Donald Trump’s warning to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea in a Fox News interview on Wednesday night.
“As far as I’m concerned, as an American citizen, I want a president that says that if any nation such as North Korea attacks Guam, attacks Honolulu, attacks the West Coast, that they will be met with hell and fury,” Calvo told host Brian Kilmeade on Tucker Carlson Tonight.
Calvo said there was “concern and worry” among the people of Guam but “no panic.”
“If you can recall, just going back to 2013, this is about the third, fourth threat made by North Korea specifically to Guam, as well as other facilities or bases in Asia as well as the States – Hawaii and the West Coast,” he pointed out.
“We’ve got right now 160,000 American citizens on this island, 50,000 American citizens in the Northern Marianas. On any given day, we’ve got ten to fifteen thousand tourists enjoying our shores,” the governor said. “We encourage everyone to go through their lives and live them like you would any other day. At the same time, we have both our civil government work in collaboration with the military regional command here that is prepared for any type of contingency.”
Calvo was critical of Senator Lindsey Graham, whom he accused of “encouraging the administration to go to war because they’d rather have it over there than in the homeland.” That is not quite how Graham put it; he said the prospect of war was “terrible” and “horrific” but added that, “if there was going to be a war, it would be in the region, not in America.”
Calvo was, however, supportive of President Trump’s tough talk to Pyongyang. He then reiterated his criticism of Graham, and his plea for policymakers to remember the vulnerability of Guam and the Marianas when making their plans.
“I think it’s important to be very strong. At the same time, be calm,” he counseled.
“I’ve had enough briefings with the military that there is a multi-layered defense, starting from Korea and Japan, as well as in the Western Pacific, as well as our terrestrial assets here in Guam with the THAAD missile defense system, that American communities such as Guam, as well as other American communities, will be protected,” said Calvo.
“Tell Tucker to come to vacation on Guam! Everything’s okay here!” he concluded cheerfully, giving Kilmeade a message to pass along to regular host Tucker Carlson.
Calvo’s history of North Korean bellicosity is correct. Guam residents found themselves practicing air-raid drills in early 2013 after a previous round of threats, in which North Korea specifically named Andersen Air Force Base as a target. Pyongyang issued three distinct threats to attack Guam in the span of about two months.
The United States moved a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) unit to Andersen in response and conducted show-of-force B-52 bomber flights.
In the summer of 2016, North Korea produced a propaganda video that showed Guam targeted with its new Musudan-2 missiles, which have even greater range than the Taepodong-2 missiles that could already strike the island. The current threat involves the new Hwasong-12 missile introduced this year, which is the first North Korean missile that actually has better-than-average odds of hitting Guam. Pyongyang said in 2016 that it might blow up Guam in response to a U.S. anti-missile drill with Japan and South Korea it found provocative.
A few months later, North Korea explicitly threatened a nuclear strike on Guam because it said the United States and South Korea were cooperating too closely on “provocations” such as installing a THAAD system near Seoul. After shrieking that U.S. bomber flights to South Korea were also unacceptable provocations, the North Korean military threatened to use its “treasured nuclear sword” to “reduce to ashes Seoul” and “sweep Guam, the base of provocations, from the surface of the earth.”
On Thursday, Japan stated it also stands ready to protect Guam in the event of a North Korean attack.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told the Japanese parliament that its American-designed Aegis destroyers are capable of shooting down North Korean missiles and that any attack on Guam would be considered an “existential threat to Japan” under defense treaties with the United States. This is a significant change from previous Japanese defense policies, which until last year called for shooting down North Korean missiles only if they were aimed at Japan.
Although almost every major American news organization has misrepresented North Korea’s missile threat as a direct response to Trump’s “fire and fury” comment, the threat was actually issued in response to the U.S. Air Force moving B1-B Lancer supersonic bombers to Guam and test-firing a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Both of these factors were specifically cited by the North Korean military spokesman who delivered the missile threat to Guam.
“The Strategic Force of the KPA has taken special note of such maneuvers,” the statement from the North Korean People’s Army said, referring to the bomber deployment and missile launch. “The KPA Strategic Force is now carefully examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 in order to contain the U.S. major military bases on Guam.”
After complaining about “frequent visits to the sky above South Korea” by U.S. strategic bombers, the KPA statement warned, “The U.S. should clearly face up to the fact that the ballistic rockets of the Strategic Force of the KPA are now on constant standby, facing the Pacific Ocean and pay deep attention to their azimuth angle for launch.”
A separate statement from the North Korean General Staff released on the same day mentioned comments by Senator Lindsey Graham and Joint Chiefs Chairman James Dunford and threatened to “turn the U.S. mainland into the theater of a nuclear war” with a “pre-emptive retaliatory operation of justice” but did not refer to President Trump’s comments.
This is not to say that North Korea will not respond to President Trump’s remarks with plenty of blood-curdling threats, but it is important to note that the threat universally cited by the mainstream media as Kim Jong-un’s terrifying push back against Trump’s bluster was, in fact, a threat issued for entirely different reasons – both of them involving American military forces located on U.S. soil.