This week North Korea threatened to fire missiles at Guam, a tiny US territory in the Pacific, as tensions escalated between Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump. But where is Guam, and what makes it special?
Guam is an island in Micronesia, but is a US territory. It is known as the place "where America starts its day" as it is the first US land that sees the sun each day and is a popular draw for Japanese and Korean tourists, though less so for Australians.
It has a fascinating indigenous culture: the Chamorro people, who first inhabited the islands around the Marianas Trench about 3500 years ago and now make up the biggest ethnic group on the island. Guam was occupied by the Spanish in the 17th century, has many beautiful tropical beaches, and a history rife with myths and legends.
Here are a few things you should know about Guam, before it is too late:
One third of the island is used by the military
This is what has put the target squarely on Guam's head. Andersen Air Force Base in the north of the island deploys US Force B-1B Lancer bombers to fly missions to Japan and the Korean Peninsula. It is these planes that have got up Kim Jong-un's nose. In the middle of the island is the US Naval Base Guam. For a small island Guam has some heavy firepower.
A Japanese soldier hid on the island for 28 years after WWII ended
Talofofo Falls. Photo: Shutterstock
At Talofofo Falls Resort Park in the south of the island you can visit a small hole dug in the ground by Japanese soldier Yokoi Shoichi. Shoichi hid in this makeshift cave during fighting on the island and was completely unaware the war in the Pacific had ended. He emerged from his hand-dug cave in 1972 and returned to Japan, presumably to a more comfortable abode.
It has a tourist attraction full of erotic statues
Also at Talofofo Falls Resort is Love Land, a park full of surprisingly explicit sculptures. It is the only offshoot of Jeju Love Land in Korea, which boasts that it is in turn the country's "only sexual theme park".
And another tourist attraction that is a bit of a mystery
Guam's latte stones – pillars consisting of two pale stones placed one on top of the other that look like a white chalice – are one of the main symbols of Guam (you can buy all manner of latte stone-shaped souvenirs). But no one knows for sure what these pillars are, though it is speculated that they acted as the base of ancient Chamorro homes. The best example is in Latte Park in the capital of Hagatna where six of them sit in formation.
The Pope blesses the island every day
Well, a small statue of Pope John Paul II opposite the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagatna does. The statue takes 12 hours to rotate 360 degrees each day so the Pontiff can bless every part of the island.
Guam was once ruled by a mighty chief
Umatac Bay is where legend has it that Chamorro warrior Gadao killed a shark with his bare hands in an act of bravery that saw him eventually named High Chief of Guam – you can see an oddly Socialist-looking statue of him rowing his canoe or proa, in Chief Gadao Park in Inarajan. But it was not an easy path for Chief Gadao, who had to pass three additional trials of strength – swimming around Guam 25 times, cracking a coconut with this bare hands and levelling the island's highest mountain – before he could claim the title.
They make a killer local burger
Tinaktak is a traditional Guam dish of ground beef cooked in coconut milk but it has also been turned into a burger – where coconut milk is ladled over a beef patty during grilling. Taste the most inspired cuisine mash-up since cronuts at Pika's Cafe.
Cebu Pacific (www.cebupacificair.com) and Philippine Airlines (www.philippineairlines.com) operate flights to Guam from Manila, and United Airlines (www.united.com) and ANA (www.ana.co.jp) flies to Guam from Narita airport.
One of the newest luxury hotels on the island is the Dusit Thani Guam Resort which has 419 guest rooms at Tumon Bay, the main tourist stretch on the island. Doubles start from $US459 per night; www.dusit.com
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