Facing North Korean nuclear threat, Guam Catholics urged to 'look to God'

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North Korea's threat on Thursday to test-fire ballistic missiles soon near the American territory of Guam deepened the challenge confronting the Trump administration: how to defang Pyongyang's missile programs without risking all-out war.

Residents of the tiny Pacific island of Guam say they're afraid of being caught in the middle of escalating tensions between the USA and North Korea after Pyongyang announced it was examining plans for attacking the strategically important US territory.

Amidst the escalating crisis that has put Guam in the crossfire of a possibly nuclear-armed stand-off between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the Archdiocese of Agana is asking faithful to "look to God in these hard times".

"All of this could lead to further militarization of South Korea", said Yang Uk, a senior research fellow at the Korea Defence and Security Forum.

Called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, the exercises are expected to run August 21-31 and involve tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops on the ground and in the sea and air.

"I don't believe that there will be any significant altering of East Asian procurement strategies, despite the rhetoric emanating from North Korea, principally because for them the threat hasn't altered drastically", Reed added.

Reports suggested North Korea mastered a technological hurdle needed to strike the USA with a nuclear missile. The country, still technically at war with the North after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce and not a peace treaty, has deployed the US -built Patriot missile defence system, as well as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system. "For now, we advise the community to remain calm, remember that there are defenses in place for threats such as North Korea and to continue to remain prepared for all hazards".

Burger said the news is prompting his family to ask him when he's coming home.

More than 3,000 kilometres southeast of North Korea, Guam is an important strategic hub for the United States military.

On Wednesday the U.S. president responded by boasting of America's nuclear arsenal, saying it was "far stronger and more powerful than ever before".

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"Now is the right time to actively look at bringing back tactical nuclear weapons", Chung Woo-taik, floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, told Reuters. The multiday trip has been long scheduled and is not related to recent developments in North Korea, although that will be part of the talks.

"I'm not saying we shouldn't be anxious because we never know if they'll decide to follow through this time", said Tayana Pangelinan, a resident of Dededo, the island's most populated village.

But Pyongyang carried out its first nuclear test in 2006, and formally abandoned the deal in 2009.

Guam is the closest US territory to North Korea. "To make matters worse, President Trump has declared that "North Korea would face fire and fury, one never witnessed by the world", states the letter. North Korea has been increasingly sensitive to the exercises lately because they reportedly include training for "decapitation strikes" to kill Kim Jong Un and his top lieutenants.

'A catastrophe is looming, ' the South's top-selling Chosun daily said in an editorial this week.

But in an interview that aired April 30 he called Kim "a pretty smart cookie" - expressing admiration that the North Korean strongman "was able to assume power" at a young age. The 550 square kilometre U.S. territory has three USA military bases, including an air force base that hosts B52 bombers and fighter jets.

The US military has a large presence here - its bases cover nearly a third of the island's land area - and prepares for worst-case scenarios like this.

The former speaker said a full-scale blockade might work, but could trigger a "desperate" nuclear launch in retaliation.

Seoul's defence chief Song Young-Moo said recently the South was "fully capable" of building its own nuclear weapon but was not considering the option for now.

They can not vote in USA elections and the island's only representative in Congress has no right to vote. The blue and yellow lines indicate other possible flight paths at range-maximizing ballistic trajectories.

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