Reportedly, during a period of heightened tensions between the United States and North Korea early in Donald Trump’s presidency, there was a significant concern about the potential threat that North Korean nuclear aggression could pose to the US territory of Guam. This island, situated in the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, is home to approximately 170,000 residents and is located hundreds of miles away from the Philippines, making it well within the range of North Korean missiles.
It has come to light, as per a recent report in The Atlantic, that then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had directly conveyed this unique threat to President Trump. Kelly had warned that if North Korea were to launch nuclear weapons, Guam would be in immediate danger. However, Trump’s response was somewhat surprising. He allegedly brushed off the concerns by stating, “Guam isn’t America.“
While it is true that Guam is not an American state, it has been under American control for well over a century. The United States took possession of the island in 1898 following the conclusion of the Spanish-American War. Guam played a pivotal role during World War II when it served as a strategic base for the American military in its operations against Japan across the vast Pacific Ocean.
Moreover, it is essential to recognize that the residents of Guam are considered US citizens. They have the same citizenship status as those living in any of the 50 states, granting them certain rights and privileges, including the right to vote in US elections.
It is worth noting that, despite the gravity of the situation and the concerns raised by senior officials, the Trump campaign did not provide an immediate response to inquiries from Insider regarding this matter. This episode highlights the complexities and challenges of governing American territories that are not part of the contiguous 50 states but still possess American citizens who expect the protection and representation afforded to all US citizens.
In conclusion, the exchange between President Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly regarding Guam’s vulnerability to North Korean aggression underscores the need for a comprehensive understanding of the unique status of US territories and the importance of ensuring their security, even when they are not located within the continental United States. Guam, with its long history of American presence and its US citizen residents, remains an integral part of America’s broader strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region.