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Guam leader backs ‘punch in the nose’ for Kim
Guam’s leader said yesterday that “sometimes a bully can only be stopped with a punch in the nose,” in a spirited defense of US President Donald Trump’s rhetoric against North Korea which has the island in its crosshairs. AP/Tassanee Vejpongsa, File
HAGATNA – Guam’s leader said yesterday that “sometimes a bully can only be stopped with a punch in the nose,” in a spirited defense of US President Donald Trump’s rhetoric against North Korea which has the island in its crosshairs.
While Trump’s critics accuse him of inflaming tensions with Pyongyang, Guam governor Eddie Calvo said he was grateful the US leader was taking a strong stance against North Korean threats to his Pacific homeland.
“Everyone who grew up in the schoolyard in elementary school, we understand a bully,” Calvo told AFP.
“(North Korean leader) Kim Jong-Un is a bully with some very strong weapons... a bully has to be countered very strongly.”
Calvo, a Republican, said Trump was being unfairly criticized over his handling of the North Korea crisis, which escalated when Pyongyang announced plans to launch missiles toward Guam in a “crucial warning.”
He said North Korea had threatened Guam – a US territory which hosts two large military bases and is home to more than 6,000 military personnel – at least three times since 2013.
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Trump has responded by threatening “fire and fury,” warning last week that the US military was “locked and loaded” to respond to any aggression.
“President Trump is not your conventional elected leader, what he says and how he says it is a lot different from what was said by previous presidents,” Calvo said.
But he pointed out previous presidents had also used strong words to warn off Pyongyang, including Barack Obama who said last year that “we could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals.”
“One president (Obama) said it one way, cool and calmly with a period... the other said fire and fury with an exclamation point, but it still leads to the same message,” Calvo said.
He rejected suggestions that Trump and the North Korean dictator were as bad as each other when it came to the saber rattling playing out in the western Pacific.
“Well, there’s only one guy that has vaporized into a red mist his uncle or a general because he fell asleep in a meeting with an anti-aircraft gun, that’s Kim Jong-Un,” he said.
“There’s only one guy that’s killed his brother with one of the most toxic nerve agents ever created, that’s Kim Jong-Un.”
‘Safe place to visit’
Some regional players such as China have urged Trump to tone down his rhetoric but Calvo called on them to do more to contain Pyongyang, saying “no one wants to see a war.”
“It’s not only in the interests of America and its allies, but also China and Russia to see this fellow does not continue in his effort towards nuclearization or longer-range missiles,” he said.
“You’re allowed to voice those opinions without going to prison, whether you’re for the military or against it, unlike North Korea,” he said. He acknowledged there were “varying opinions” among Guam’s 160,000 residents about the huge US military presence on the island but insisted the majority of inhabitants backed it.
Calvo also dismissed criticism of the US-operated THAAD weapons system, which has been deployed in Guam and is capable of destroying intermediate-range missiles in the final phase of flight.
“It’s meant not to shoot people, it’s meant to shoot at missiles that kill people,” he said.
Calvo said he did not expect the crisis would have a major impact on the island’s tourism industry, which draws more than 1.5 million tourists a year.
“Guam’s a safe place to go to. Even though all this stuff is going on in the airwaves there has been no added threat level,” he said.
“I’m welcoming all the people of the world to come visit Guam, it’s a beautiful place.”
‘Inform your embassy, consulate’
Malacañang yesterday urged Filipinos in Guam to inform consular officials of their whereabouts as presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the Philippine government has contingency measures in case North Korea makes good its threat to fire missiles towards Guam.
“We ask all Filipinos in Guam and Korea and their families here to inform DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) or our consular officials of their whereabouts,” Abella said in a briefing.
He said it would be better for all sides to start talks, adding that the Philippines is reiterating its appeal to the US and North Korea to avoid issuing threats that can stir tensions.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) recently expressed grave concerns on the tensions in the Korean Peninsula, saying this would “seriously threaten peace, security and stability in the region and the world.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano emphasized a diplomatic approach in easing the tension, adding that the Philippines and the ASEAN are ready to play a part in resolving the issue peacefully.
Cayetano thanked Sen. Ralph Recto for a proposal to allocate emergency standby funds for all embassies and consulates around the world.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippines stood “neutral” in the word war between the US and North Korea, expressing hope reasonable people will prevail.
“All we can do is just hope that this will not result in nuclear war,” Lorenzana said as he pointed to the Philippines’ lack of defense systems that could counter a missile attack.
Alert Level 1
The Philippine consulate general in Agana declared yesterday Alert Level 1 for Filipinos in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, acknowledging that the developing situation “is out of the ordinary.”
“Filipinos who live and work in these areas are reminded that Alert Level 1 simply acknowledges that the situation developing at this time is out of the ordinary and bears paying close attention to,” the consulate general said. – Alexis Romero, Pia Lee-Brago, AFP