As US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un try and outdo each other with threats over Guam, what do the residents of the island feel? Is there calm or an exodus to avoid planned Pyongyang strikes? And why Guam?

Tourists stroll along a road on the island of Guam. August 10, 2017.
Tourists stroll along a road on the island of Guam. August 10, 2017.

With all the sabre-rattling by North Korea and the prospect of the waters off Guam becoming a new testing ground for its intermediate-range missiles, the people of this tiny US Pacific territory seem to be taking things in stride.

There were no signs of panic or an exodus from the island of 163,000 people on Thursday, with its wide roads clogged with commuters and commercial vehicles. Shops and restaurants were doing brisk trade from South Korean and Japanese tourists drawn to the island's green hills and bright turquoise waters.

Clarissa Baumgartner, a 25-year-old Guam resident, said that Pyongyang's second threat in as many days to train its ballistic missiles on Guam wasn't something she was taking too seriously.

"I'm not really too worried about it. I feel it would be a pretty stupid idea to do that," she said.

Baumgartner, a supervisor at a high-end clothing store, said she was confident US forces on the island's two bases were ready to intervene, and she bore no grudges about that military presence making Guam a North Korean target.

"Definitely, I know Guam is a pretty good target because it's important to the US because of the military," she said.

"I'm pretty confident that the US will protect us. It makes me feel pretty good."

Not all islanders are as sure.

"It's pretty scary, the thought of it ... I mean, I know as a person who lived on Guam, like all her life, you still gotta worry about what's happening out there, and at the same time, still go through your daily life, your daily routine, so you got your worries on top of this whole thing that island is worrying about," J'rae Tedtaotao said, a 26-year-old cook.

US forces on the island were not immediately available for comment.

TRT World's Sara Firth has more.

But why is Guam a target?

It's all about the base. Rather bases.

Guam is located in the western Pacific Ocean, around 3,379 kilometres from North Korea, and is within the range of its medium and long-range missiles. The 550-square-kilometre US territory has three US military bases, including an air force base that hosts B52 bombers and fighter jets.

Some 6,000 US troops are stationed on Guam, which has a total population of around 162,000 people.

North Korea said on Thursday it was finalising plans to fire four intermediate-range missiles that would land 30 to 40 km from Guam in response to US President Donald Trump's tough rhetoric.

It was not the first time Guam has been put on notice and similar threats made since 2013 led to the US military permanently deploying a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) interceptor system on the tiny island.

Guam is a non-incorporated territory of the US, like Puerto Rico.

Its inhabitants, of which two-fifths come from the Chamorro indigenous group, are American citizens, but with limited rights.

They cannot vote in US elections and the island's only representative in Congress has no right to vote.

There have been many calls for an autonomy referendum but these have been blocked by a US federal tribunal.

Republican Eddie Calvo has since 2011 had the position of governor.

An aerial image of US Naval Base, Guam on September 20, 2006. (Reuters)
An aerial image of US Naval Base, Guam on September 20, 2006. (Reuters)

"Enjoy the beaches"

On Thursday, Calvo described his island to those who don't know it as a "mini Hawaii" and puts the chances of a direct missile hit at a million-to-one because of the multi layers of Pacific defences, the last being those on Guam itself.

Having experienced a Japanese invasion in World War Two and countless earthquakes and super-typhoons, there was no US community better prepared than Guam "for any contingency," Calvo said.

"We are concerned about these threats, but at the same time we also want to make sure people don't panic and go on with their lives. Enjoy the beaches," he said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies