Guam’s lieutenant governor on Wednesday urged Japanese people to visit the Pacific island despite North Korea’s threat to fire missiles near the U.S. territory, saying Washington has prepared for any contingency.
“All the defenses are already in place” such as the Aegis missile defense system, Raymond Tenorio told a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo. “Come to Guam” because it is a “safe place to come.”
Tenorio made the remarks as speculation is rife that Guam may see a decline in tourism following Pyongyang’s announcement earlier this month that it is contemplating launching a missile strike against the U.S. Pacific territory.
Guam hosts U.S. military facilities, including the Andersen Air Force Base, where strategic bombers are stationed.
According to the Guam Visitors Bureau, about 72,900 people visited the Pacific island between Aug. 1 and 15, up 3 percent from a year earlier. North Korea made the missile threat on Aug. 9.
Last year, more than 745,000 Japanese people traveled to Guam, accounting for around 50 percent of the total visitors to the U.S. territory, the bureau said.
Local media reported that many residents of Guam have been baffled by North Korea’s military threats, wondering why Pyongyang is targeting the small island. Some have apparently started to argue Guam should be independent from the United States.
Tenorio disagreed with the idea, saying standing together is important.
In a recording posted by Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo on his Facebook page, U.S. President Donald Trump told him in a phone conversation, “All over the world they’re talking about Guam and they’re talking about you and I think tourism — I can say this, your tourism, you’re going to go up like 10-fold with the expenditure of no money.”
But Jon Denight, president and chief executive officer of the Guam Visitors Bureau, who also attended the news conference in Tokyo, brushed aside Trump’s view, expressing concern over the outlook for the tourism industry on the island.
“Tourism is a fragile industry,” he said.
“Guam’s brand image was built as a very safe and family-friendly destination,” Denight said. “I want to reassure people of Japan that there has been no change and Guam is safe for travel.”
Tenorio and Denight are in Japan to explain the current situation in Guam and prevent the number of tourists from the world’s third-biggest economy from declining.