Guam's Worries Grow As Tensions Rise Between US, North Korea

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — The war of words between the U.S. and North Korea has ratcheted up a notch, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was urging calm Wednesday.

As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, North Korea said late Tuesday that it was examining plans for attacking the U.S. territory of Guam.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said the United States’ nuclear arsenal is “far stronger and more powerful than ever before.”

Trump tweeted Wednesday: “My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before….”

“Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!” he said in another tweet.

The tweet came a day after Trump traded escalating threats with North Korea. Trump on Tuesday threatened “fire and fury” if North Korea made more threats to the U.S. and North Korea’s military said it was examining plans for attacking Guam.

Trump also retweeted news coverage about his heated rhetoric Wednesday.

Later Wednesday, the North Korean regime called Trump’s warning a “load of nonsense,” and said it would complete its plan to attack waters by Guam by mid-August.

North Korea said it will fire four Hwasong-12 missiles over Japan into the water around Guam. The head of North Korea’s rocket command says the plans could be final within a week, and then they will just need Kim Jong Un’s approval.

The small Pacific island is hope to more than 6,000 American servicemembers and their families.

The escalating tension has left many on edge. But Tillerson was urging calm Wednesday, saying as he returned from an Asia trip he doesn’t believe there is “any imminent threat.”

“Americans should sleep well at night,” he said, adding they should “have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days.”

Tillerson said North Korea’s rhetoric is simply getting louder and more threatening because of new international pressure.

As to Trump’s choice of words on Tuesday, Tillerson said, “What the President was doing was sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jung Un would understand.”

The State Department also emphasized that the Executive Branch remains a united front.

“Whether it’s the White House, the State Department or Department of Defense, we are speaking with one voice,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

Defense Secretary James Mattis also issued a strongly-worded statement Wednesday, saying North Korea should cease any consideration of actions that would “lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

In Guam, elected officials are reassuring constituents that the U.S. territory is safe. Guam is armed with the U.S. Army’s defense system known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which can intercept missiles.

Guam Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo said Wednesday there is no threat to Guam or to the Mariana Islands to the north. Calvo said there is no change in the threat level resulting from the latest North Korea events.

“This is not a time to panic,” Calvo said. “These are many statements that are being made out there by a very bellicose leader. But at this point, there has been no change in the security situation here in Guam.”

He added that he will continue discussions with Joint Region Marianas Commander Rear Admiral Shoshana Chatfield to discuss military and first-responder readiness, to ensure that Guam is “prepared for any eventuality.”

“An attack or threat to Guam is a threat or attack on the United States,” said Calvo, who said he spoke with White House officials Monday morning. “They have said that America will be defended.”

As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported, Calvo also spoke on Fox News Wednesday night and said the U.S. must defend itself.

“As an American citizen, I want a president that says that if any nation such as North Korea attacks Guam, attacks Honolulu, attacks the West Coast, they will be met with hell and fury,” Calvo said.

Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo issued a statement saying Pentagon officials have assured her that the territory is protected. She urged Trump to work with the international community to de-escalate tensions.

Meanwhile, there is plenty of concern about the North Korea debacle Wednesday – especially amongst senators on both sides of the aisle who condemned Trumps rhetoric.

“This is so irresponsible,” said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota). “I can’t even believe that he did this.”

“The great leaders that I have seen they don’t threaten unless they are ready to act,” Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) said on KTAR Radio on Phoenix, “and I’m not sure President Trump is ready to act.”

But some lawmakers also defended Trump’s warning to North Korea.

“It was very responsible for the president to say what he did,” said Long Island Rep. Peter King (R-New York). “He was sending a clear message to North Korea in language they could understand.”

“It’s the goal of the American president to stop North Korea from having an ICBM that can hit America with a nuclear weapon on top,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina). “He would go to war to prevent that.”

The latest round of warring words comes days after the United Nations Security Council approved heavy sanctions against the regime.

The Pentagon’s defense intelligence agency recently concluded that North Korea can build a nuclear weapon small enough to fit atop a ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States. The nuclear device is similar to one that Kim Jong Un showed off more than a year ago.

The Chinese government told CBS News that it hopes both sides will stop provoke ng each other and void escalation.

The UN sanctions imposed on Kim Jong Un’s regime are largely up to China to enforce. North Korea staged a mass rally on Wednesday rejecting the sanctions.

Even with North Korea further developing their missile technology, experts say right now, it’s unlikely are capable of reaching the United States.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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