SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And the U.S. territory of Guam is in the spotlight after North Korea said it's studying whether to launch a missile toward the island. President Trump responded this way.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Let's see what he does with Guam. He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody's seen before what will happen in North Korea.
SIMON: Yesterday, the president spoke to the governor of Guam and said the U.S. military is ready to guard the security of Guam. As NPR's Elise Hu reports, for many, that reassurance was needed.
ELISE HU, BYLINE: Guam's white sand beaches and stunning sunsets make this a perfect spot for a getaway, as the governor here, Eddie Calvo, often reminds people.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
EDDIE CALVO: Hey, this is not a bad place to go on vacation. Come on over (laughter).
HU: But this is American territory since 1898 was fought over for centuries for a different reason.
ROBERT UNDERWOOD: Guam is the largest island between Hawaii and the Philippines. And it has a natural deep sea water port.
HU: That's former Guam delegate to the U.S. Congress, Robert Underwood. Guam today hosts major military might, like a bomber fleet and a missile defense system.
UNDERWOOD: For the United States, Guam is the place from which you can project power into Asia in an unfettered way.
HU: The U.S. military owns about a third of the land here and has both an Air Force and naval base on Guam. Because its key strategic role in the Pacific, Guam is also a target for North Korea and lately, central to the president's aggressive rhetoric. Francesca Ballendorf (ph) is a longtime Guamanian.
FRANCESCA BALLENDORF: We're too close for comfort.
HU: She says she'd like to see the president's tough talk dial down.
BALLENDORF: It is scary because I lived through the Second World War, and I certainly don't want to see another one.
HU: During that war, Japan occupied Guam until U.S. forces helped liberate it. Guam's called the tip of the spear for that reason. But tenser times like this one throw residents into a familiar debate. Is being tip of the spear really worth it? Underwood.
UNDERWOOD: When the - President Trump says, you know, go ahead and do what you're going to do in Guam and see what happens, subsequently, it causes you to think, like, well, would he say that if Anchorage had that same thret? If Kim Jong Un said, we're going to hit Anchorage, would he say, go ahead, hit Anchorage and see what happens?
HU: Comedians are U.S. citizens by birth but not allowed to vote in the American presidential election. Guam elects a delegate to the U.S. House, but that delegate isn't allowed to vote on a bill's final passage. And yet, it's often exposed to threats against America.
UNDERWOOD: How do people really see Guam in the context of the U.S. family? So are we just like cannon fodder? Are we just extras? Are we just not part of the equation?
HU: An existential question for this tiny territory currently caught between President Trump and North Korea. Elise Hu, NPR News, Guam.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.