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Why is North Korea threatening Guam? Key facts about the tiny U.S. territory in the Pacific

Click to play video: 'Why is North Korea threatening to attack Guam with nuclear weapons?' Why is North Korea threatening to attack Guam with nuclear weapons?
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North Korea is said to be “carefully examining” plans for an attack on the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump told Pyongyang that any threat against America would be met with “fire and fury.”

Trump’s warning came after reports that North Korea has manufactured a nuclear warhead that’s small enough to fit inside its missiles, pushing the secretive state closer to a nuclear power, according to both NBC News and the Washington Post.

North Korea fired back at the U.S. saying it was studying a plan to create an “enveloping fire” in areas around Guam wth medium- to long-range ballistic missiles.

Here are some key facts about the tiny U.S. territory in the Pacific.

In this May 15, 2017 file photo, tourists walk through a shopping district in Tamuning, Guam. AP Photo/Haven Daley

GEOGRAPHIC BASICS

The strip of land in the western Pacific Ocean is roughly the size of Chicago, and just six kilometres wide at its narrowest point. It is about 3,500 kilometres southeast of North Korea, much closer than it is to any of the United States.

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Hawaii is about 6,500 kilometres to the west. Its proximity to China, Japan, the Philippines and the Korean Peninsula has long made the island an essential possession of the U.S. military.

U.S. RELATIONSHIP

Guam was claimed by Spain in 1565 and became a U.S. territory in 1898 during the Spanish-American War. Japan seized it for about 2½ years during World War II. In 1950, an act of Congress made it an unincorporated organized territory of the United States.

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It has limited self-government, with a popularly elected governor, small legislature, and non-voting delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives. Residents do not pay U.S. income taxes or vote in the general election for U.S. president. Its natives are U.S. citizens by birth.

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MILITARY HISTORY

The U.S. keeps a Naval base and Coast Guard station in the south, and an Air Force base in the north that saw heavy use during the Vietnam War. While already taking up 30 percent of the island, the American military has been seeking to increase its presence by relocating to Guam thousands of Marines who are currently based in Okinawa, Japan.

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Protecting the island is the U.S. Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which is used to shoot down ballistic missiles. Last month, the U.S. twice flew a pair of supersonic bombers that took off from Guam over the Korean Peninsula in a show of force after two North Korean tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles. While there has been some resistance and displeasure from the people of Guam over the U.S. military’s presence, it is also essential to the island’s economy, second only to tourism in importance.

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People walk around Hagatna, Guam Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017. AP Photo/Grace Garces Bordallo

PEOPLE AND GOVERNMENT

The island was first populated about 4,000 years ago by the ancestors of the Chamorros, still the island’s largest ethnic group. Now, about 160,000 people live on Guam. Its capital city is Hagatna and its largest city is Dededo. Its chief languages are English and Chamorro. It has seen various popular movements pushing for greater self-government or even U.S. statehood, most notably a significant but failed effort in the 1980s to make it a commonwealth on par with Puerto Rico.

with a file from Global News

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