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By Gerardo R. Partido

HAGATNA, Guam (Marianas Variety, Oct. 19) – United States Air Force strategic bombers at Andersen Air Force Base are reportedly on high alert status.

United Press International has reported that B-52 bombers deployed on Guam continue to be maintained in a high state of readiness to deal with any crisis in the region.

Maj. R.A. Dowdell, public affairs chief of the 36th Wing at Andersen Air Force Base, would neither confirm nor deny the heightened alert level.

But she said Andersen Air Force Base is prepared for any eventuality.

"We always stand ready and if called upon, we’ll be ready to respond," Dowdell told Variety.

On Monday, 36th Wing commander Col. Michael R. Boera said if diplomacy does not work in the North Korean crisis, the forces at Andersen are ready to go and handle whatever task it is given.

The rhetoric in the North Korean crisis increased after an unofficial North Korean spokesman in Japan was quoted by ABC Radio Australia making a specific threat to Guam and other U.S. bases in the Pacific.

The 15-nation United Nations Security Council approved a measure endorsing sanctions to punish North Korea for its Oct. 9 bomb test, including an array of financial and weapons-related restrictions.

Yesterday, North Korea called the U.N. sanctions in the aftermath of its nuclear bomb test a "declaration of war" and vowed to take "merciless" action against any nation that enforces the sanctions.

According to Boera, the rhetoric from North Korea drives home the importance of the continuous bomber presence at Andersen.

There are six B-52 bombers on Guam, as well as B-2 stealth bombers on regular rotation.

The U.S. Air Force has a range of fighter planes, surveillance aircraft and support planes at two major bases in South Korea and at three bases in Japan.

But Andersen is the only U.S. Bomber Forward Operating Location, or BFOL, nearest to North Korea.

The only other BFOL serving the Asia-Pacific area is Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

If diplomacy fails and the U.S. is faced with no other options, Boera said Andersen Air Force Base would surely play a big role in any military campaign against North Korea.

He said the U.S. bases on Guam have always played major roles in all the country’s Pacific campaigns, from World War II to the Vietnam War.

Flying time to North Korea from Andersen Air Force Base is just four hours without refueling.

Aside from long-range bombers, Andersen also has 3,000-pound conventional air-launched cruise missiles capable of flying approximately 600 miles to strike targets while keeping the launch aircraft and crew out of harm’s way.

In view of the specific threat made against Guam, Gov. Felix P. Camacho announced that his administration is taking the threat seriously and that GovGuam is in constant contact with the White House and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, there is growing speculation that North Korea could be on the verge of another nuclear test after the U.S. confirmed that last week’s claimed test by North Korea was indeed a nuclear explosion.

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