With Guam becoming the center of attentionÂ because of concerns over North Koreaâs nuclear threats, some, including President Trump, see the islandâs newfound notoriety as a good thing.
During a phone call Friday with Eddie Baza Calvo, the Republican governor of the U.S. territory in the Western Pacific, Trump saidÂ that the attention would boost tourism âtenfoldâ â even as he continued to escalate rhetoric against North Korea. In talking about the heightenedÂ internationalÂ attention to the island, Margaret Metcalfe, director of Calvoâs Washington office, said: âNone of this is good publicity.â
âIâm just saying that is the result of whatâs happening. Nobody asked for it. Nobody wanted it. It happened,â she told The Washington Post on Saturday,Â adding: âWe pray day and night. â¦ And we hope that calmness prevail and balance prevail. We certainly donât what to do anything that would put our families at risk.â
North Korean leader Kim Jong UnÂ has threatenedÂ to fire a missile to land near Guam, a strategic U.S. military base.
Asked about the presidentâs positive tourism assessment amid escalating nuclear threats, Metcalfe described Trump as an outside thinker and said tourists are continuing to visit Guam.
âI donât think anyone can really predict what our president may offer, because he is one of those thinkers outside the box,â Metcalfe said. âBut right now, I can tell you, in Guam, our flights are arriving from South Korea and Japan â¦ Tourists are coming as normal even with all these fights from the media.â
Tourists, for the most part, seem toÂ beÂ undeterred by the threats.Â Few haveÂ so far canceled vacations,Â the Pacific Daily News reported this week. Some residentsÂ remained calm, even as the government advises them on what to do in case of a missile attack.Â Others have stocked up on bottled waters, batteries and portable fans, but those are staples for prepping for typhoons,Â according to the Pacific Daily News.
âIt is business as usualâ on the island, asÂ the Guam Chamber of CommerceÂ said earlier this week in response to North Koreaâs threats.
Such threats are not at all new for Guamanians, and awareness among mainland Americans is simply heightened now because of the attention from the media,Â said Metcalfe,Â a national committeewoman for the Republican Party of Guam who ran for Congress in 2014 and 2016.
âLike anything else, if something is promoted in the media, that is going to enhance whateverâs going on right now,â she said, adding later. âThe concern we have before was that a lot of people donât know where we were. Now people know where we are.â
The Guam Visitors Bureau sees that as a silver lining.
Several hours ago, the Visitors Bureau promoted a three-minute fireworks show at one of the islandâs resorts on its Facebook page.Â The day before, it posted a picture of the blue water and white sand on Hagatna Bay with â#visitguam #fortheloveofweekends.â
And on Wednesday, the same day the Korean Central News Agency announced the threat, the Visitors Bureau shared a news release saying Guamâs tourism numbers have hit a new record.Â Nearly 133,000 touristsÂ visited Guam in July, surpassing the record from 1997.
âThe circumstances are unfortunate, but this is a good opportunity for us to educate the world about Guam and our culture, about where we are and who we are,â Josh Tyquiengco, the bureauâs marketing director,Â told the Agence France-Presse.
Calvo said earlier this week that âthere is no change in the threat level resulting from North Korea events.â He also praised the response from the president, who said that an attack on the United States would be met with âfire and fury.âÂ Trump later said that those comments may not have been âtough enough.â
âAs far as Iâm concerned, as an American citizen, I want a president that says that if any nation such as North Korea attack Guam, attack Honolulu, attack the West Coast, they will be met with hell and fury,â CalvoÂ told Fox Newsâs Tucker Carlson on Wednesday.
The dynamic between the two leaders was apparent Friday, when Calvo posted a video of his end of the call with Trump.
âI just wanted to pay my respects, and we are with you 1,000 percent. You are safe,â Trump told Calvo at the outset of the call, which appeared to last about three minutes, according to the video.
In response, Calvo said he has ânever felt more safe or so confidentâ with Trump in charge.
Unprompted, Trump offered this assessment:Â âEddie, I have to tell you, youâve become extremely famous. All over the world the world, theyâre talking about Guam, and theyâre talking about you, and I think âÂ tourism, I can say this, your tourism, youâre going to go up like tenfold with the expenditure of no money, so I congratulate you. â¦ It just looks like a beautiful place.â
Others, however, are more critical, saying Trump needs to tone down his antagonistic language.
âHis bellicose statements will not make our nation any safer and will only further elevate tensions between the United States and North Korea. â¦ President Trump must reaffirm his commitment to Guamâs security and make clear that he will not allow any escalation to further threaten our island. Guam is not a bargaining chip,â Rep. Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam) said in a statement earlier this week.
Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, also a U.S. territory, are home toÂ more than 200,000 Americans, more than 160,000 of whom live on Guam.