Gov. of US Territory Near Guam: ‘I Place My Full Faith and Trust in Our President’

By Patrick Goodenough | August 10, 2017 | 9:26 PM EDT

The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system is tested. Guam has since 2013 been home to the only THAAD system to be permanently stationed on U.S. territory. According to the Missile Defense Agency, THAAD has a 14 out of 14 test intercept success rate since 2006. (Photo: U.S. Missile Defense Agency)

( – The governor of the U.S. commonwealth of Pacific islands neighboring Guam has voiced his full support for President Trump and his handling of the standoff with North Korea.

The expression of firm backing for the president from Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Gov. Ralph Torres contrasted sharply to the reaction of Guam’s delegate to the House of Representatives in D.C., Madeleine Bordallo, who criticized what she called Trump’s “bellicose statements” directed at Pyongyang, and said that Guam was “not a bargaining chip.”

The CNMI is a collection of 15 islands, including Saipan, Tinian and Rota, which lie around 120 miles north of Guam, a separate territory. CNMI has a population of some 54,000, compared to Guam’s  163,000, including some 6,000 U.S. military personnel.

Governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Ralph Torres. (Photo: CNMI Gov't)

“Being on the front line of the threat from North Korea, along with our brothers and sisters in Guam, I place my full faith and trust in our president to make the appropriate decisions for the security and protection of our nation,” Torres, a Republican, said in a statement provided by his office.

“All Americans, from the Marianas to the mainland, are at risk given North Korea’s threats and those from other foreign enemies,” Torres added.

He said this was the time to “rally behind our commander-in-chief during this critical time in order to protect our nation and the proud citizens of our country living in the U.S. territories.”

“I support our president and our U.S. military, and I am proud to fly the American flag in the Western Pacific,” he said.

‘Tone down the rhetoric’

By contrast, Bordallo has focused on Trump’s comments in recent days in response to the North Korean regime’s threats to fire ballistic missiles into “areas around Guam” in order to “neutralize” what it says is a U.S. military threat.

Trump’s warning that Pyongyang’s threats would be “met with fire and fury, like the world has never seen” drew mixed responses, including criticism from media pundits and some lawmakers from both parties. North Korea called it “nonsense.”

Undeterred, Trump said Thursday his earlier remarks may not have been “tough enough.”

“North Korea better get their act together, or they’re going to be in trouble like few nations ever have been in trouble in this world,” he told reporters in New Jersey..

Bordallo said in a statement Trump “needs to tone down the rhetoric and recognize that words have consequences. His bellicose statements will not make our nation any safer and will only further elevate tensions between the United States and North Korea.”

Guam’s delegate to the House of Representatives, Madeleine Bordallo, records a video message for an event in Guam. (Photo: Bordallo/Instagram)

Bordallo, a Democrat, said she had spoken a day earlier with U.S. Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris “who reaffirmed the security of Guam and defensive systems in place to protect our island.”

“I am confident in these capabilities and continue to believe that Guam is safe from the threats posed by North Korea,” she said. “However, given his remarks over the past few days, and today especially, President Trump must reaffirm his commitment to Guam’s security and make clear that he will not allow any escalation to further threaten our island.”

Bordallo urged Trump to “heed the advice of his own military advisors to work with the international community to de-escalate these tensions and refrain from any action that could lead toward a military conflict with North Korea.”

‘America will be defended’

On the island of Saipan, Torres has signed an executive order establishing a working group to address “potential nuclear threats to our region,” comprising representatives from emergency services, relevant departments and agencies and headed by the commonwealth’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The governor in a statement quoted the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Marianas, Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, as saying that “no imminent threat exists” either for Guam or CNMI.

Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo said earlier there was no threat to Guam or the Marianas and that the White House had assured him that “America will be defended.”

Guam has been the launching pad for U.S. Air Force B1-B Lancer strategic bombers that have flown mission with South Korean and Japanese fighter planes in the two allies’ respective airspace in recent weeks, in a show of “solidarity” in the face of Pyongyang’s threats.

An aerial view of U.S. Naval Base Guam in Apra Harbor. (Photo: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristina D. Rasco)

The North Korean military Thursday issued a more specific threat than earlier ones, saying it proposed to fire four intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missiles over Japan, to land in waters 30-40 km (18.6-24.8 miles) off Guam.

Guam radio and television broadcaster KUAM on Thursday evening quoted Guam Homeland Security Advisor George Charfauros as saying hitting a target in Guam would be “very difficult with the layers of defense we have in place.”

Those layers include the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) missile defense shield stationed on the island, others based in South Korea (THAAD) and Japan (surface-to-air Patriot missile batteries), and Aegis-equipped U.S. warships in the Sea of Japan.

“I’m very, very confident in their ability to defend the island, from one missile or several missiles,” Charfauros said.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow