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By Lacee A.C. Martinez

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 10) - As the U.S. government awaits confirmation of recent nuclear tests conducted in North Korea, regional leaders are taking a stand against the use of nuclear weapons while Guam residents' reactions were mixed.

Bob Jericho, director of communications for the Republic of the Marshall Islands governor's office, said North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons and testing of weapons will affect the current security situation in the Asia-Pacific Region.

"The RMI Government fully condemns any nuclear test(s) by North Korea," Jericho said in a written statement. "The Marshallese people know first hand the devastation of such weapons, and would not want any other nation to experience the effects of such."

For more than a decade after World War II, the U.S. used the Marshall Islands as nuclear testing sites, conducting 67 atmospheric nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands from 1946 to 1958. The result of radioactive fallout left many islanders afflicted with more than two-dozen varieties of cancer and other illnesses, Jericho noted.

He added that because of their history, the Republic of the Marshall Islands will fully support other nations in condemning North Korea's nuclear program and testing.

Republic of Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. has also condemned the nuclear tests in North Korea.

Guam's leaders reiterated that the island is safe from the fallout of North Korea's underground test, and residents said they are not too worried about the island's safety, although Guam is located only 2,000 miles away from North Korea.

Former U.S. Coast Guard member Destiny Siguenza said she is confident the U.S. will be able to settle any problems with North Korea before a possible nuclear disaster erupts.

"Our military forces can overpower (North Korea's)," the 22-year-old said. "We're the stepping-stone to war, right in the middle of the ocean for refueling and restocking.

Dededo resident Sean Cruz, 38, said the United States, along with the United Nations, need to be in control of the nuclear situation with North Korea. But he was wary about how any increase in military power in the Pacific may make Guam a target.

"When they see us beefing up our troops, we'll be looked at as the better target," Cruz said.

Jimmy Santos, 30, said he understands the U.S.'s view of preventing new weapons of mass destruction from being assembled, however he said does not believe the U.S. should be one of the only nations to be holding nuclear weapons.

"Who are we to say that they cannot have it as well," the Mangilao resident said. "Nobody wants the possibility of a nuclear war. Guam is not the only possible target for a North Korean nuclear strike", he said, noting the U.S. military's presence in South Korea and Japan, which are much closer compared to Guam.

"No one truly knows the reason why North Korea wants nuclear weapons," he said. "We need to change the way we think about having nuclear weapons in global terms. If (North Korea) is constantly scared of their neighbors, then they're going to be militant."

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