Asia Pacific

Guam, Japan prepare defense against threat from North Korea

AP, Kyodo, JIJI

If an attack warning is issued, Guam residents should take cover quickly — in a concrete structure, preferably underground — and stay there until instructed otherwise, according to a fact sheet titled “Preparing for an Imminent Missile Threat.”

Guam’s Office of Civil Defense began disseminating fact sheets Friday to help residents prepare for a missile attack from North Korea. The guidance also includes tips on building an emergency kit and reminders about keeping calm.

“Do not look at the flash or fireball — it can blind you,” the missile threat prep fact sheet advises those who are caught outside. “Lie flat on the ground and cover your head.”

The flyer also offers guidance on removing radioactive material: “When possible, take a shower with lots of soap and water to help remove radioactive contamination.” But don’t scratch or scrub skin and “do not use conditioner in your hair because it will bind radioactive material to your hair.”

Japanese municipalities are also growing active in holding missile evacuation drills amid the increasing threat from North Korea.

The Akita Prefecture city of Oga carried out a civilian evacuation drill in March to prepare for a possible North Korean missile, becoming the first municipality to hold such an exercise.

Other municipalities have followed. The number will rise to 12 on Aug. 30, when Wajima in Ishikawa Prefecture conducts a drill.

A North Korean missile could reach Japan in as little as seven to eight minutes.

The central government says it will increase communications with cities via the J-Alert system, which delivers emergency information promptly.

Tottori Prefecture in June checked procedures for responding to a missile attack, and learned that there is no understanding among the prefectural police, the Self-Defense Forces and fire authorities about who would play a commanding role in the initial response to such a situation.

The prefectural government has asked Tokyo to set details of how central and local government organizations should act so that they would be able to work together efficiently.

In Guam, Gov. Eddie Calvo noted Friday that although the island has many buildings made to withstand typhoons, nothing can protect against a thermonuclear attack.

Calvo said Guam is relying on the United States and its allies to thwart North Korea. In a news conference aired live on his Facebook page, he said he feels “very confident in the missile defense system that the United States and its allies, Japan and South Korea, has.”

“I’m not a military man, but based on the information that we have, the confidence levels of the United States military, the confidence of working with our allies, also, knowing a little bit about the limitations of the North Korean capability, I have reasonable confidence,” Calvo said.

North Korea announced this past week that it will develop a plan by mid-August to launch four intermediate-range ballistic missiles into waters near Guam. The announcement came after U.S. President Donald Trump warned that North Korea would be met with “fire and fury” if it continues to threaten the United States.

Calvo expressed appreciation for Trump’s comments, saying they give clear assurance “that if there is an attack on any American soil, including Guam, it would be met with overwhelming response.”

Guam, which lies 3,400 kilometers southeast of North Korea and around 6,400 km from Hawaii, is home of the U.S. Pacific Command and has a population of more than 162,000. The 544-sq.-km island has a significant presence of the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marines.

Despite the pronounced threat against the island, Calvo reassured “everyone that the threat level has not changed, and this island is safe and secure.”

“I think everybody should continue to go business as usual everyday. … It’s a weekend. Go out and have a good time. Enjoy the beaches tomorrow, and live your lives,” Calvo said.

The same piece of advice goes to the estimated 10,000 to 15,000 tourists from Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan and other countries who visit Guam any given day, he said. “We are just as safe as Tokyo or Seoul or Taipei.”

Calvo said the public will be promptly informed if there are changes in the local government’s advisory, saying, “We have a fairly mature communications system, working through Homeland Security and Civil Defense.”

“And we’ve had a lot of practice both because of natural disasters such as typhoons, as well as a maturation of the system that occurred as of the first threats from North Korea back in 2013,” he said.

“I do want to encourage the entire community to stay prepared for any eventualities,” Calvo added.

Asked about his expectations of the Japanese government if the feared attack happens, Calvo said, “We are very confident that whatever adversity that occurs, the bonds between the United States and Japan and the territory of Guam will be even stronger.”

Trump further escalated the war of words on Friday, saying the U.S. military is “locked and loaded” for action.

“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!” he tweeted.

Speaking to reporters at his golf club in New Jersey following a meeting of security officials, Trump said he would talk with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the phone later in the day, apparently to discuss the tensions arising from North Korea’s planned launch toward Guam.

“I will be speaking to President Xi tonight, from China. And we’ve been working very closely with China and with other countries,” Trump said.

Trump made the remarks after North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency put out a statement accusing him of stoking tensions.

“Trump is driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war, making such outcries as ‘the U.S. will not rule out a war against the DPRK,’ ” KCNA said, using the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name.

Japan on Saturday finished deploying Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air interceptors along the possible path North Korean ballistic missiles launched toward Guam would take.

The missile defense system is being deployed in the prefectures of Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi, which North Korea said its missiles could cross over, as well as Ehime.

No PAC-3 units are regularly stationed in the four prefectures.

Japan’s missile defense system employs Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis destroyers to shoot down airborne missiles, and the ASDF’s PAC-3 system to counter missiles that evade Aegis interceptors.

Trump expressed hope later in the day that North Korea sufficiently understands what he said about the U.S. military being “locked and loaded” in response to threats from the country.

“We are looking at that very carefully and I hope they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said, and what I said is what I mean,” he told reporters at the golf club. “Those words are very, very easy to understand.”

“If he does anything with respect to Guam or any place else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it. And he will regret it fast,” Trump said, referring to the North Korean leader.

Also Friday, The Associated Press reported that the United States has been engaged in back-channel diplomacy with North Korea for several months, involving Joseph Yun, the U.S. envoy for North Korea policy, and Pak Song Il, a senior North Korean diplomat at the country’s U.N. mission.

It had been known that the two sides had discussions to secure the June release of an American university student held in North Korea. But it wasn’t known until now that the contacts have continued, or that they have broached matters other than U.S. detainees, the AP said.

Last Saturday, the U.N. Security Council imposed fresh sanctions on Pyongyang that aim to slash the country’s $3 billion annual export revenue by a third.
At the annual security meeting of Asia-Pacific foreign ministers in the Philippines on Monday, North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho defended his country’s nuclear and missile programs as legitimate and self-defensive in nature.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside missiles, citing a confidential U.S. assessment.

In the Philippines, which is only 2,100 km west of Guam, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the government is monitoring developments with concern, especially because he fears that Pyongyang’s rockets are not very accurate and could hit the country instead.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, spokesman of the Philippine military, said, “We are preparing because the debris could fall on the side of the Pacific,” and may hit some northern coastal areas.

The Philippines went on alert in April 2012 when North Korea launched what it claimed was an “earth observation satellite.” Some areas off the eastern coasts of Luzon island were identified as “falling off areas.”

Lorenzana expressed hope things will cool down between Washington and Pyongyang “so that we’re not going to be affected.”