North Korea vented its anger to the recent deployment of US strategic bombers over the Korean peninsula. Two B-1-B bombers from the Anderson Air Force Base flew over South Korea in a combined-exercise with South Korean jets In an announcement on its state media, a spokesperson for the North Korean military said it was, quote, "carefully examining the operational plan to envelope fire in the areas around Guam" with it's intermediate-range missile, the Hwasong-12. This was said to be in order to contain activity of the U.S. military bases on the island, including the bombers, and that the operation would be ready to go at any moment under the order of the regime's leader Kim Jong-un.
South Korea's defense officials said the phrasing of the statement suggests that Pyongang would put the island under siege, rather than target the island itself. Guam, located in the Western Pacific, is some 3,400 kilometers from North Korea, and within striking distance of the Hwasong-12 missile, which Pyongyang claims to have successfully tested in May 2017. Guam has been the target of Pyongyang's rhetoric before, but despite some concerns of escalation, experts say it changes little of the situation on the peninsula.
The government's Commission on Decolonization held meetings beginning in December 2016 to educate villagers about Guam's political options: becoming independent from the US, joining the nation as a state or vying for independence from the country. The island's native Chamorro inhabitants are expected to vote on the issue in a non-binding referendum, but the vote had been delayed since 1998. Gov. Eddie Calvo said that he wanted to hold the vote along with the general election in November 2016, but his plans for an education campaign never got off the ground and the commission delayed the referendum again.
On 3 October 2013, in Tokyo, Japan, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Japan Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida, and Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera signed the Protocol Amending the Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Japan Concerning the Implementation of the Relocation of III Marine Expeditionary Force Personnel and Their Dependents from Okinawa to Guam. This amended the Guam International Agreement, which had been signed in 2009, implementing a key aspect of the 2006 Realignment Roadmap for the Japanese island of Okinawa by providing a framework for reducing the footprint of the US military presence there, while still maintaining operational capability and a credible deterrent. The planned relocation, which was due to begin in the early 2020s, was an essential element of a strategic realignment to achieve a geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable military presence in Japan.
The 2013 Protocol amending the Guam International Agreement reflected the changes made in 2012. Additional changes made in 2013 included clarifying that Japan would contribute up to $3.1 billion in FY12 US dollars in direct cash contributions to develop facilities and infrastructure in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (The 2012 Security Consultative Committee Joint Statement estimated the total cost of the Guam relocation to be $8.6 billion.) and affirming that the Government of the United States of America, with the intent to provide reasonable access, would favorably consider requests by the Government of Japan to use training areas in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Guam, which is often described as at the "tip of the spear," is the forward most US territory in the Western Pacific and is therefore critical to America's defense posture in the Asia/Western-Pacific region. Guam is home to a large US military presence that includes Navy and Air Force bases, comprising nearly 27 percent of the islandís land mass as of the late 2000s. Historically known for harboring American bases, Guam is also strategic stopping point for ships and aircraft. In addition to being the westernmost territory of the United States, it houses Apra Harbor, one of the largest protected deep water harbors between Hawaii and the Philippines. Given its position with respect to the Far East and its recent development, the island has become a political, economic, and military stronghold of national and international significance.
Guam, an island in the western Pacific, is 3 hours by airplane from Tokyo and Manila; 4 hours from Seoul, Hong Kong, and Taipei; 5 hours from Saigon, Singapore, and Bali; and 6 hours to Bangkok, Sydney, and Auckland. Going to the other side of the International Dateline, it is 7 hours by air plane to Fiji, Honolulu, and Samoa, and 8 hours to Tahiti. Guam is located at 12 degrees 75 minutes north latitude, and 144 degrees 47 minutes east longitude. If you were to draw a straight line east of Manila, Philippines and another line south from Tokyo, Japan, the 2 lines would intersect near Guam. Guam is the southern most island in the Marianas Island chain. The closest neighbor islands are Rota, Tinian, and Saipan. Guam is across the International Dateline from the mainland United States. Guam's time zone is GMT + 10 hours or international "K" time zone.
The island of Guam is located in the Pacific Ocean approximately 1,200 miles east of the Philippine Islands and 3,500 miles west of the Hawaiian Islands at 13 degrees 28 minutes north latitude and 144 degrees 45 minutes east longitude. Guam is part of an underwater mountain range running southward from Japan. Situated in the Western Pacific, across the international date line, it is the largest of more than 2,000 islands scattered between Hawaii and the Philippines. Guam has total land area of approximately 212 square miles. The island is 30 miles long and has a width varying from approximately 8.5 miles in the north, to 4 miles at its center, to 11.5 miles in the south. The island is surrounded by active reefs and 12 small uninhabited limestone islands. As of the early 2000s, Guam had about 140,000 residents and more than 7,000 military personnel and their family members. As such, Guam was the most populated island in the geographical area known as Micronesia.
From the air, Guam looks like it was pushed up out of the sea. Geologists say the island was formed millions of years ago when a pair of volcanoes sank beneath the ocean and left behind 2 separate chunks of land. The lava remains of the southern volcano, the younger of the 2, eventually fused with the older northern crater whose limestone top had been formed during a long period underwater by an extensive coral polyp community. Guam was approximately 30 miles long, stretching from Ritidian Point in the north to the village of Merizo in the south. The widest area, between Orote and Ylig Points, was approximately 12 miles; the shortest distance across the island was about 4 miles.
A close scientific examination of Guam revealed 4 main physical divisions to the island: the northern limestone plateau, the dissected volcanic plateau in the south, the south-central basin area and the fringing reef areas of the coastal lowlands. At the southern tip of Guam, protected by a barrier head, was Cocos Island and its lagoon. Cocos had a total area of approximately 2.8 square miles. It was oblong in shape, composed mostly of drift materials, and not more than 15 feet above sea level at its highest point. The lagoon was shallow, but there were several spots that were 30 feet deep.
The southern volcanic half of Guam was quite irregular. A belt of mountains, running southward along the west coast, towers above the smaller plateau hills. This range included Mount Lamlam, the island's highest peak at 1,334 feet. Guam's northern third was a wide plateau of limestone approximately 8 miles across. The highest elevation there was 600 feet at Ritidian Point on the northwest tip of the island and this height slipped gradually down to the southwest until it reached approximately 200 feet above sea level at Guam's center.
The only volcanic rock in the northern sector was on Mount Santa Rosa and Mataguac Hill. Both of these were above water when the coral polyps formed the limestone roof on the sunken part of the northern volcano. Also on the northern plateau were undisturbed jungle areas that constituted one of the last major tropical limestone forests on the island. Trees such as pandanus, pugua, breadfruit and papaya were plentiful.
A unique island, Guam combined old and new to make a colorful montage of people, land and heritage. Countries from around the world had left a little something behind on this island: language, foods, songs, religions and much more. The indigenous people of Guam were "Chamorros," with the balance of the population a mixture of mainland Americans, Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans, Micronesians, and others. Chamorros were US citizens who proudly retained many of the old island and Spanish traditions, which reflected 3 centuries of Spanish rule. The predominant language on Guam was English, and currency, postal services, and most banking services were US-based.
Guam's tropical climate features warm temperatures and high humidity throughout the year. There was a marked seasonal variation in rainfall. The dry season was exceptionally pleasant. The steady easterly trade winds were cool and refreshing. March was the driest month, with an average of less than 2.5 inches of rain. The average humidity varied from an early morning high of 86 percent to an afternoon low of 72 percent. The atmosphere's high moisture content during the wet season, combined with the warm temperatures, contributed to the rapid deterioration of man-made materials through rust, rot, and mildew.
Of course, a very important daily tool every person should have on Guam was the "umbrella." It would rain and rain during the "wet" season, which usually ran from July through December. In comparison to some stateside locations, the "dry" season was also relatively wet, and it usually ran from January through June. Although it could still rain sometimes, the trade winds would bring cooler, drier air to the island during the dry season, bringing comfortable conditions, particularly during the early morning hours. Each year, Guam averaged 86 inches of rain, almost 30 percent higher than Miami, Florida. During 1997, parts of the island received close to 150 inches, or 12.5 feet, of rain water. However, much of the heavy rain occurred during the late night and early morning hours, so the sun was still visible in the afternoon, even during the rainy season.
At 13.6 degrees North and 145 degrees East, Guam's position was smack in the middle of the warm tropical waters of the Western Pacific Ocean. In comparison to other tropical locations, Guam was about 730 miles farther south than Miami and 660 miles farther south than Key West, Florida. The warm ocean waters and the abundant tropical sunshine caused Guam's climate to be warm and moist all year round. Although there might be occasions where temperatures reached the lower 90s or even the upper 60s, for the most part, daytime highs would run in the lower to middle 80s and nighttime lows in the lower to middle 70s.
As Guam was in the middle of tropical ocean waters, it was no stranger to tropical depressions, tropical storms and typhoons. A tropical depression is a tropical low-pressure system with sustained winds usually greater than 29 miles per hour, but less than 39 miles per hour. A tropical storm is the same thing, except with sustained winds between 39 and 74 miles per hour. Typhoons have sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or more. Especially intense typhoons, with sustained wind speeds near 150 miles per hour or more, are "Supertyphoons." Each year, the Northwestern Pacific can expect about 30 such storms. Although 1998 and 1999 were relatively quiet, an average of 3 tropical storms and one typhoon passed within 180 miles of Guam each year. Generally, October and November were when the island has the highest risk of seeing a typhoon.
Typhoons, the most intense tropical cyclones observed anywhere, form over the open ocean of the Western Pacific. Most of these tropical cyclones would be in their formative stages while near Guam. Although these systems often influenced Guam's weather, they rarely struck the island. The most intense typhoon to pass directly over Guam recently was Supertyphoon Paka, which struck Guam on 16 December 1997. Paka caused millions of dollars in damage to homes, utilities and businesses. The Air Force measured wind gusts at more than 180 miles per hour, the strongest ever recorded worldwide at that time.
Paka was not the first serious storm to hit Guam, however. On 11 November 1962, Supertyphoon Karen roared ashore. Its wind gusts, while not recorded, were estimated near 185 miles per hour. It caused $250 million in damage and destroyed 95 percent of the homes on the island. The storm killed 9 people and injured one hundred more. Soon after Karen, the island began to build much more reinforced structures for protection from these storms. Supertyphoon Pamela was the next devastating typhoon to strike the island, and made landfall on 21 May 1976. It brought with it wind gusts estimated near 165 miles per hour and 24-hour rainfall totals near 27 inches, a record for the island. Although island facilities sustained $500 million in damage, only one person died in the storm. The next major storm was Supertyphoon Omar, which made landfall on 28 August 1992. It brought to the island wind gusts of 150 miles per hour, and caused more than $450 million in damage. However, no one died during this storm. Then came Paka and another supertyphoon with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour struck Guam, on 8 December 2002, leaving the island temporarily without power and water and only limited telephone service.
Although these storms could be very serious indeed, the key to surviving them was to plan for them well before they arrive. It was recommended that residents of military facilities always keep a well-packed typhoon locker with at least a week supply of water, food, and plenty of flashlight batteries. For example, Big Navy and Andersen Air Force Base were without power for a one to two week period and without running water for a three-day period immediately following Supertyphoon Paka. Housing at Big Navy and at Andersen is reinforced concrete, enabling them to withstand very high typhoon winds, as long as their storm shutters are completely functional. Residents were also advised to check their storm shutters ahead of time to ensure they were working and functional. Once the storm started, residents would be advised to stay inside their houses, it being the best shelter from the dangerous winds. Military personnel living off base were advised to stay with friends who lived on base, or stay at an approved storm shelter. Additionally, it was suggested that all personnel stay tuned to the latest information from the Andersen Base LAN concerning Conditions of Readiness, as well as the latest on weather watches and warnings. Most people on Guam were used to these storms, so to them, they were not a big deal. They knew that smart planning such as keeping a typhoon locker, having a safe place to stay, and paying attention to the latest on conditions of readiness and weather forecasts were the keys to surviving any typhoon.
Guam is a cosmopolitan tropical island. The indigenous people of Guam are "Chamorros" with the balance of the population a mixture of "stateside" Americans, Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans, Micronesians and others. Though English is dominant, Guam today is a melting pot where you'll hear the languages of Chamorro, Japanese, Tagalog, Korean, and others. The people of Guam have a reputation of being friendly, open, and warm. It is year-round summer on Guam, with average temperatures of 79 to 82 degrees. The northeast trade winds make the weather ideal for waterskiing or wind surfing. Guam and the surrounding Marianas islands are renowned as locations for diving and snorkeling.
Guam's number one industry was tourism. In fact, significant to the island's history, Guam had received more than one million visitors each year from 1994 into the early 2000s. That number was expected to be higher in the years to come. Often called Hotel Row, Tumon Bay was Guam's scaled-downed version of Waikiki Beach, Hawaii. The majority of the island's hotel rooms lined breathtaking Tumon Bay. Japanese tourists kept most of the hotel rooms full. Offering great diving, golfing and shopping, Guam was also becoming a popular vacation choice for many people in the greater Asian market by the end of the 1990s. The island also had become the western Pacific's major education, transportation and communications center. The University of Guam and the Guam Community College attracted students from the 5 island nations that comprise Micronesia.
In 1898, Spanish rule on Guam came to an abrupt halt when Captain Henry Glass captured the island at the start of the Spanish-American War. On 10 December 1898, Guam was ceded to the United States from Spain by the Treaty of Paris, to be administered under the Department of the Navy. In February 1899, the United States officially took possession of Guam. US Naval Station, Guam, was established in August 1899, with the entire island designated as Naval Station. The Commanding Officer, Captain Leary was designated as Governor of Guam.
Naval Station controlled Guam until it surrendered to the Japanese on 10 December 1941. The people of Guam experienced something that was very unique in the American framework. It was the only American territory with civilians who lived on it that had been occupied by a foreign power since the War of 1812. During World War II, the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska were occupied by the Japanese, but prior to that the civilians on those islands were evacuated by the military. In the case of Guam, approximately 20,000 native Guamanians, better known as Chamorus, were at that time considered US nationals. They were not aliens. They were non-US citizens, but they were considered US nationals. Of course, Guam was an American territory. They endured some 32 months of Japanese occupation. The occupation of Guam was especially brutal, for 2 reasons. First of all, the Japanese were occupying American territory with American nationals whose loyalty to the United States would not bend. Second, the Chamorus, the indigenous people of Guam, dared to defy the occupiers by assisting American sailors who hid and who evaded initial capture by the enemy by providing food and shelter to the escapees. In the final months of the occupation, just before the marines landed in July 1944, the brutalities increased. Thousands of Chamorus were made to perform forced labor by building defenses and runways for the enemy. Others were put to labor in rice paddies. The war in the Pacific turned for the worse for the Japanese occupiers, and in the final weeks as the pre-invasion bombardment by American planes and ships signaled the beginning of the end for them, the atrocities likewise escalated.
The island remained under Japanese rule until 21 July 1944, when US forces returned to liberate the island. This day subsequently became celebrated annually as "Liberation Day." In 1944, Admiral Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Fleet, arrived and defeated the Japanese imperial forces on the island, aiding American efforts to bring the war to a close. During the battle to liberate Guam, over 80 percent of the buildings were destroyed. The city of Agana and the second largest city, Sumay, were completely annihilated.
Once the island was secured, Guam became the forward operating base for the subsequent invasions of the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Over 45 percent of the land mass was acquired for this wartime effort, and over 200,000 military personnel came to Guam to prosecute the war against Japan. The Chamorus, numbering only about 20,000, were temporarily housed in refugee camps. To their credit, the Chamoru people did not complain. In fact, they helped the military in every way they could to help defeat their former oppressors. The period from 1944 to 1949 was an era of military government, the officers who served as Commander, US Naval Forces Marianas (COMNAVMARIANAS) were respectively charged with such civil responsibilities as Governor of the Marshalls-Gilberts; Deputy Military Governor, Pacific Ocean Areas; and Deputy Military Governor, Bonin-Volcano Islands. From 1944 until 29 March 1952, Naval Station served as a naval operations base, providing every type of fleet service. In September 1956, the Naval Base was disestablished and the Naval Station was reassigned under the military command of Commander, US Naval Forces Marianas.
Also during this period, in 1950, Congress passed the Organic Act under which Guam became an organized unincorporated territory of the United States and the Chamorros population of Guam became US citizens. The president appointed the governor, and the administration fell under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior. Guam elected its first delegate to the US Congress in 1962. Guam's first popularly elected governor took office in 1971. Guam elected its first delegate to the US Congress in 1972.
Guam was home to numerous Navy commands supporting the Pacific Fleet. On 1 October 1994, Naval Station and Naval Magazine, Guam, were consolidated into Naval Activities, Guam. Despite the name change, Naval Activities remained a pivotal point of strength and sea power for the western Pacific by playing host to several key tenant commands, as well as serving as the home of submarine tender USS Frank Cable.
The former Naval Magazine, subsequently known as the Ordnance Annex, was located in the south-central section of the island and occupies an area of 8,800 acres. It was designated as a wildlife refuge and provided support to units of the Pacific Fleet operating in the Western Pacific. The complex consisted of numerous Naval commands, the 4 of which were recommended for realignment or closure by the BRAC Commission in July 1995. Those 4 commands were Guam Naval Activities (NAVACTS), formerly the Naval Station (NS) and NAVMAG, the Naval Fleet and Industrial Supply Center (FISC), the Naval Ship Repair Facility (NSRF), and the Public Works Center (PWC). Typical operations at the Navy activities included various support shops, photographic and printing shops, a dry- cleaning plant, power plants and boilers, pest control operations, and chemical and medical laboratories. Wastes were stored and disposed of in landfills, incinerators, and wastewater treatment plants.
Combined, the NAVACTS, the NSRF, the FISC, and the PWC had 23 CERCLA sites and 26 RCRA sites. Of the CERCLA sites following the 1995 BRAC Commission recommendations, one was in the study phase of an RI/FS, 2 were scheduled for the study phase in FY04, one was in a cleanup phase, and seven are in the study phase of an Interim Removal Action. Of the RCRA sites, 20 were in the study phase. The majority of the CERCLA sites in the study phase for Interim Removal Actions were in the Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis (EE/CA) stage, and the 20 RCRA Corrective Action (CA) sites were in the RCRA Facility Investigation (RFI) and Corrective Measures Study (CMS) phase. Three Removal Actions had been completed: one to remove the remaining underground storage tanks (UST) and sumps at NAVACTS, the second to remove contaminated soil at NAVACTS, and the third to install a fence to restrict access to a site at the PWC. The complex converted its Technical Review Committee, formed in FY89 for all Apra Harbor Naval activities, to a Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) in FY95. The complex also completed a joint Community Relations Plan in FY92 and was updating that document following the 1995 BRAC Commission recommendations. A local Information Repository was established in FY94.
On 7 January 2000, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command's Pacific Division announced the award to Raytheon Technical Services Guam of a Base Operations Support contract for various Naval Installations on the US Territory of Guam. The contract had a total estimated value of $329 million over a 7.5 year period. Raytheon Technical Services Guam began their mobilization on 3 February 2000 and commenced full contract performance of the base operations on 9 April 2000. The contract was a result of a commercial activities study, conducted in accordance with OMB Circular A-76 procedures, which compared costs between the Government and private sector providers. The tentative decision to convert base operating functions to contract was announced on 9 November 1999, after a detailed study indicated that significant savings of tax dollars could be achieved. The contractor won the cost comparison competition with the Government in-house workforce by $253 million over the 7.5 year contract life. The contract award to Raytheon Technical Services Guam was pending based upon expiration of a mandatory administrative appeal period in accordance with OMB Circular A-76 and subject to resolution of any appeals received. One appeal was received from the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1689, Inc. The request by Local 1689 to reverse the decision to convert to contract operations was denied by the Commander in Chief, US Pacific Fleet, the Administrative Appeals Authority for this A-76 study. The study was announced to Congress in January 1997 and originally involved approximately 2,300 military and civilian positions. The following base services were to be performed under the contract: Administrative Services; Contingency Preparedness; Engineering & MRP Management Services; Buildings and Structures Maintenance/Repair; Transportation Services; Environmental Services; Steam and Demineralized Water Services; Electrical Services; Potable Water Services; Wastewater Services; Housing Operations & Maintenance; Food Services; Family Services Center; Morale, Welfare, & Recreation Services; Supply Services; Ordnance Services and Waterfront Operations.
As part of the 2009 Guam International Agreement signed between the US and Japan, the Department of Defense planned to relocate 8,600 Marines and approximately 9,000 dependents from Okinawa to Guam with an initial estimated cost of $10.27 billion. The Guam population at that time was approximately 178,000. It was estimated that up to 20,000 temporary workers could be needed to complete the required construction. At the completion of the relocation approximately 6,000 civilian workers would be added to the islandís population. The government of Guam expressed concern that this rapid population increase would place an unsustainable burden on its infrastructure. However, the Administration would continue to move forward with a "One Guam" approach to address the needs of Guam associated with the military build-up. A Civilian-Military Coordination Council (CMCC) was established, which would assist the Department of Defense in implementing Adaptive Program Management, whereby the Department of Defense would monitor the buildup and adjust the construction pace if it unduly impacts the environment and/or the infrastructure. Many new construction jobs would be created during the build-up years. Priority would be given to US workers before the hiring of foreign labor. Public Law 110-229 provided that Guam can import foreign labor without limit until 2014. Major funding for the build-up effort was to be contributed by the Department of Defense, the Department of Agriculture, and the Government of Japan.
On 26 April 2012, US and Japanese officials announced the 2 nations had agreed on a plan to relocate US Marines from Okinawa to Guam. The joint statement was the latest result of negotiations between the two countries dating to the 2006 Realignment Roadmap and the 2009 Guam International Agreement. Under the original plan about 9,000 Marines would relocate from Okinawa, with about 5,000 moving to Guam. The agreement also involved possible development of joint training ranges in Guam and the commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands as shared-use facilities for US and Japanese forces. In April 2012, the United States and Japan decided to adjust the terms of the 2006 Realignment Roadmap by delinking the relocation from progress on the Futenma Replacement Facility and reducing the number of Marines relocating to Guam from approximately 8,000 (with significant numbers of family members) to approximately 5,000 (mostly rotational/without family members), while maintaining the overall reduction in the US Marine Corps presence on Okinawa through additional relocations to Hawaii and rotations to Australia.