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What you need to know Guam and the North Korea missile crisis

North Korea has threatened to wipe out the western Pacific island of Guam, following ever-increasing rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang.

On Wednesday, North Korea threatened to send a missile barrage at the U.S. territory, following President Trump’s insistence that the U.S. would retaliate against North Korean aggression with “fire and fury.”

Per PRI.org, North Korea’s Hwasong-12 missiles “flew about 489 miles in its latest test in May, when it was fired at a steep angle, and is believed to have a maximum range of about 3,106 miles.

“That puts Guam — around 2,050 miles from North Korea's missile bases — well within range.”

Guam is the closest U.S. territory to North Korea, making it a vital defense post in the Pacific. But given its distance from the U.S. mainland, few Americans ever encounter the Pacific island territory.

Here’s what you need to know about Guam.

The small island (with a size of approximately 210 square miles), located 4,000 miles west of Hawaii, serves as an important strategic territory for the United States, given its relative proximity to the Asian continent and its important players, such as China, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, and North and South Korea.

Spain claimed sovereignty over Guam in 1565, and proceeded to colonize the land in 1668. A smallpox epidemic came 20 years later, wiping out much of the indigenous Chamorro population on the Island.

After four centuries of Spanish rule, Guam (and Puerto Rico) was transferred over to the United States as part of the Treaty of Paris of 1898.

Immediately after its attack on Pearl Harbor, Imperial Japan invaded and occupied the American garrison in Guam during World War II. The Japanese occupied Guam for 31 months.

After WWII, the Guam Organic Act of 1950 re-designated Guam as an unincorporated U.S. territory. The law provided U.S. citizenship for all residents of Guam, including the indigenous Chamorro people, and allowed them to vote for their governor. The act also created an elected legislature.

During the Vietnam War, the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam served as a major platform for U.S. operations. American bombers primarily departed from Guam, for close air support and heavy bombing runs.

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