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The North Korean government recently released a statement saying it was "examining" plans for a strike on the U.S. territory of Guam.
For many Americans, this is the first time that Guam, a tiny island hidden in the remote stretches of the Western Pacific Ocean, has entered their consciousness. But where is Guam, how did the United States acquire it and why would North Korea want to attack it?
From its early history to its political significance, here are 10 facts about the tiny Micronesian island.
It's a distant localeSlide 2 of 19
It's a distant locale
Guam sits in an area of the Pacific Ocean that could fairly be described as "the middle of nowhere."
It's located about 1,500 miles (2,490 kilometers) from the Philippines and about 1,600 miles (2,600 km) from Japan. It is part of the 500-mile-long (800 km) volcanic archipelago known as the Mariana Islands, according to "Destiny's Landfall: A history of Guam" (University of Hawaii Press, 2011). Its nearest neighbor within the Mariana Islands is about 270 miles (436 km) away.Slide 3 of 19
It's a tiny but beautiful islandSlide 4 of 19
It's a tiny but beautiful island
Guam is the largest of the 15 islands in the Marianas. Still, with just 210 square miles (543 square km) of land, it's about half the size of Los Angeles. The island had a population of about 162,000 in 2016, according to the World Bank.
The island is known for its white-sand beaches, and the Mariana Trench, the deepest ocean trench on the planet, isn't far away.
The island chain was formed along a subduction zone — where one tectonic plate is diving beneath another — around 60 million years ago. However, it has risen above and subsided beneath the waves several times over the course of those millennia, and has millions of limestone and reef shelves formed from the skeletons of mollusks and other calcium-rich sea creatures, according to "Destiny's Landfall."
The island is also home to several unique species, such as the flightless koko bird, the damselfish and the Serianthes tree, according to the University of Guam. During World War II, brown tree snakes somehow slithered their way onto the island. The tree snakes have become huge pests and have wiped out many of the local birds and reptiles, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.Slide 5 of 19
Humans have a long history hereSlide 6 of 19
Humans have a long history here
The Chamorro people, whose ancestors originally sailed from Southeast Asia, have occupied the island chain for about 4,000 years. "Chamorro," which is actually the name the Spanish used to identify the inhabitants when they first encountered them, is based on a variant of the local indigenous population's name for their high-caste members, the chamorri, according to "Destiny's Landfall."
The original indigenous people of Guam are Austronesian. Linguistic clues suggest they are most closely related to the people of Taiwan and the Philippines, according to "Destiny's Landfall." However, over years of colonial rule, the Chamorro have mixed with people from Spain, Germany, the Philippines, America and many other nations.Slide 7 of 19
The first European contact was MagellanSlide 8 of 19