North Korea threats spark buzz on Guam, not panic

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 5, 2013 at 9:04 pm •  Published: April 5, 2013
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HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — C.J. Urquico has lived on Guam for 19 years so he's used to a military backdrop to everyday life. Navy ships visit, Air Force jets fly overhead and war games are played off the Pacific island's shores.

There soon will be another military element in this U.S. territory — a defense system will be installed to shoot down incoming missiles and warheads. Its deployment comes amid intensifying threats from North Korea, which recently listed Guam among its targets for a nuclear attack on the United States.

That laid-back Guam is a named player in a nuclear showdown is the talk of the island. But at least for now, the population of about 180,000 is taking it in stride and not running for cover.

"The worst thing that can happen is we allow it to terrorize us," said Urquico, a 36-year-old creative director for a telecommunications company. And while "there's no real sinister feeling in the air," he added: "People are definitely paying attention. I mean, how many times do we ever trend on Twitter?"

The remote, 209-square-mile island in the Pacific is no stranger to international conflict. The island's waters are a graveyard for rusting equipment from World War II and the oldest residents remember living under Japanese occupation.

But many residents aren't taking the North Korean threat too seriously. The annual typhoon season may be a bigger concern.

"Fortunately everybody has concrete homes here so we're sort of a bunker already," joked Leonard Calvo, vice president of Calvo Enterprises, a firm that invests in insurance, real estate, media and retail and other businesses in Guam and other islands.

"I think this guy from North Korea is just puffing out his chest. A lot of people are numb to it."

The island's social media is abuzz with memes mimicking North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, with one joking that he is worried about "Guam bombs," a popular term for beat-up, used cars on the island.

Not everyone is taking the issue lightly. Headlines about the threats have flashed across the island's main news website for the past week, and some residents are brainstorming plans in case the worst-case scenario comes true.

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