Pyongyang has announced it is examining plans to attack the island of Guam – a strategically important US territory in the western Pacific Ocean – in statement that emerged hours after Donald Trump threatened North Korea “with fire and fury”.
The President’s threat followed reports suggesting North Korea has created a nuclear missile small enough to be fitted to an intercontinental ballistic missile.
But where is the remote island of Guam, and why is it at the centre of escalating tensions between Washington DC and Pyongyang?
Where is Guam?
Guam is a tiny remote island in the western Pacific Ocean, with a population of around 162,700.
It is part of the US territory in Micronesia, situated about three quarters of the distance between Hawaii and the Philippines. It is the largest of the Mariana Islands archipelago.
What is the island’s history?
The island’s indigenous Chamorro people are believed to have settled on the island around 4,000 years ago.
Guam was colonised by Spain in 1668 until the end of the Spanish-American war, when the country ceded the island to the US. The island was invaded and occupied by Japanese forces between 1941 and 1944 during the Second World War, before it returned to American rule. All people born on the island are US citizens.
Why is Guam a strategically important island for the US?
According to the CIA, the military installations on the island are “some of the most strategically important US bases in the Pacific”.
It has been a significant military outpost for America since he Second World War and reportedly holds around 6,000 troops, the Anderson Air Force Base and the Naval Base Guam. The island is referred to by military commanders as their “permanent aircraft carrier”, according to ABC.
The military bases have rotations of B-1, B-2 and B-52 strategic bombers, as seen in the above graphic, created for The Independent by statistics agency Statista, and include a submarine squadron.
It is also armed with a defence system that can intercept missiles, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).
Why has North Korea threatened strike there?
The North Korean army issued a statement on Wednesday claiming it was studying a plan to create an “enveloping fire” in areas around Guam with medium- to long-range ballistic missiles.
The country has made several claims in recent years that the island is within its missiles’ striking distance, releasing threatening statements each time the US flew powerful bombers…