Idyllic Pacific island relies on tourism and the US military to sustain it. When it comes to Corea del Norte, islanders hope that peace wins over war
White sand beaches, crystal clear water, sunny blue skies and palm trees. All the hallmarks of an island getaway perfect for ignoring the problems of the world unless that island is Guam.
This far-flung sliver of coral and greenery, which sits 9,700km from the US mainland, is in the crosshairs of North Korea. It has been singled out by Kim Jong-un for a quartet of ballistic missiles in a highly detailed battle plan meant to send a warning to his bombastic American equivalent, Donald Trump.
Walking around the 50km-long island there is a mix of trepidation and defiance in the face of antagonistic rhetoric on both sides. Some residents are stockpiling essentials while others proudly boast: Si Corea del Norte nukes us, I hope the US nukes them right back.
In many ways Guam – a sovereign US territory – is quintessentially American, and most of the people are fiercely patriotic, despite often feeling ignored or forgotten by the rest of the country.
For decades the island has been a vital outpost of the US military, home to strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons. The island was occupied by Japan during the second world war and a launchpad for bombing raids during the Vietnam war.
Guams more recent history has seen tourism dwarf the importance of the military as a crucial economic lifeline.
Guns and butter: the two pistons driving our economy, said Eddie Baza Calvo, Guams governor. Theres one side, the butter, where people from growing economies in Asia want to get out of crowded cities and go to a place with white sand beaches and coconut trees. The other, the guns, where Guam is American soil in a very strategic area.
But if these threats continue, it will erode our tourism and weve seen that in the past, agregó. Even the drumbeats of war for too long, even though nothing happens, will have a negative impact.