Guam officials 'ecstatic' as North Korea holds off attack

AFP , Tuesday 15 Aug 2017

Guam Lieutenant Governor Ray Tonorio (2nd L) and Homeland Security advisor George Charfauros (C) attend a press conference in Hagatna on August 15, 2017 (Photo: AFP)

Guam officials were "ecstatic" Tuesday as North Korea appeared to back away from its threat to fire four missiles towards the US territory in the western Pacific.

"There doesn't appear to be any indication, based on what we're hearing, that there will be any missiles attacking in the near future or in the distant future," lieutenant governor Ray Tonorio said.

Guam Homeland Security George Charfauros dismissed reports of satellite images showing North Korea moving a missile into place for a possible launch.

He said he believed this was "just a show of force" to mark North Korea's Liberation Day celebrations on Tuesday.

"It may be just a ruse. Today is an historic day for the Korean peninsular. It is their Liberation Day .... North Korea tends to use symbolism as part of their decision making."

"We are almost ecstatic that Kim Jong Un has backed off," he added.

CNN reported that US spy satellites detected a North Korean mobile missile launcher being moved in a way indicating preparations were being made for a possible launch.

However, tensions began to ease in Guam after Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Kim had examined plans to fire missiles near Guam, but made no move towards an immediate strike.

Instead he hinted he would hold off by saying he would "watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees spending a hard time of every minute of their miserable lot".

Tonorio said Kim appeared to have "calmed down" some of his rhetoric and "we're happy that he has taken a look at their plans and will be holding off on, at least it appears, the imminent threats to Guam".

"At this point, our government is operating, our tourism is continuing to grow, there have been no major changes in our forecast."

Tensions have been mounting in the region since North Korea tested two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month, which appeared to bring much of the US within range.

Responding to the tests, US President Donald Trump warned Pyongyang of "fire and fury like the world has never seen".

The North replied by setting a mid-August deadline to finalise plans to test-fire its missiles towards the US Pacific island of Guam.

Although tensions have eased in Guam, which is home to two large US military installations and more than 6,000 military personnel, Tonorio said there was no change to the threat level.

"I think the rhetoric is one thing but if we have any belief, as a country or as an island, that there is going to be a threat, we are going to be prepared. We are going to be ready for it," he said.

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