Guam Activists Make Case For Territory's Independence

Island caught in the middle, vulnerable to attacks from North Korea

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam  (Marianas Variety, Sept. 27, 2016) – Guam becomes a target for China’s and North Korea’s threats of attack because it is a U.S. territory, according to Chamorro activists who are pushing for the territory’s independence.

“Guam is where America’s war begins,” said Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, co-chair of the Guam Independence Task Force. “Guam is a seen as a place to attack because there are a lot military weapons here. We are caught in the middle.”

The United States and North Korea have been exchanging threats and counter-threats in mutual attempts at cowing each other.

Earlier this month, the United States sent nuclear-capable supersonic bombers streaking over ally South Korea in a display of might intended to rattle North Korea. Pyongyan responded on Friday by threatening Seoul and Guam with a nuclear warhead attack, saying “provocations have pushed the situation on the Korean peninsula to the uncontrollable and irreversible phase of the outbreak of nuclear war.”

The threat comes after recent nuclear and missile tests in North Korea under its leader Kim Jong Un and several displays of unity by the South and the U.S.

Last week, forces from the U.S. Pacific Command concluded the 2016 Valiant Shield. The training exercise involved 18,000 personnel and more than 180 aircraft from the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, and nine surface ships that came together on Guam and around the Marianas Island Range Complex for the U.S.-only, biennial field training exercise. It included a carrier strike group, an expeditionary strike group, a Marine Air-Ground Task Force, and Air Force aggressor and bomber squadrons

“We are known as the largest testing area in this part of the world. This is why we have become a magnet for attack. All these weapons are pointed at us,” Leon Guerrero said Friday, during the continuation of the Independence Task Force’s information campaign.

Proponents of independence maintain Guam will be better off completely separated from the U.S.

“We are getting threats from China and North Korea not because they desire it, but because we are a U.S. colony,” Leon Guerrero said. “We are close to a place that they consider their enemy.”

In April 2013, The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense or THAAD missile defense system was first deployed to Guam on an “expeditionary” basis, following North Korean threats to the Island. Last year, the U.S. Army announced plans to make the THAAD mission in Guam permanent.

In July, the Guam THAAD system was supplemented by another mission to the Korean Peninsula. “This is necessary to protect our servicemembers, civilians, and interests, ‎as well as those of South Korea from the ever-present North Korean nuclear threat,” said Madeleine Bordallo, Guam’s delegate to the U.S. Congress.

“We know how valuable THAAD is on Guam and this deployment will complement the battery permanently stationed on our island. We must continue to counter proliferation in the region and use our influence and capabilities to ultimately end the North Korean regime’s increasingly aggressive and destabilizing actions,” she added.

Leon Guerrero, however, said THAAD doesn’t have a foolproof guarantee of protection for Guam.

“When it was tested it was found that THAAD is not ready in terms of reliability and maintainability,” she said. “The question is, do we need it? We are under threat of attack not because the U.S. is protecting us bur because the U.S. is offending (North Korea and China).”

Friday’s forum was part of the Independence Task Force’s educational campaign in preparation for the yet-to-be scheduled plebiscite on Guam’s political status.

Eligible voters are presented with three options: independence, statehood or free association, each has a separate task force created under the Commission on Decolonization.

“Upholding its mission to educate and engage the island community about the benefits of independence as a future political status for Guåhan, the Independence Task Force will continue to host general assemblies every fourth Thursday of every month to provide a forum where the community can ask questions, obtain information and sign up to help promote decolonization and independence for the island,” said Dr. Micheal Bevacqua, professor at the University of Guam and co-chair of the task force.


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