Will North Korea's missile threats affect Filipinos?
MANILA, Philippines – "Fire and fury like the world has never seen." This was US President Donald Trump's warning to North Korea as tensions between the two countries heat up over Pyongyang's missile launch threats.
Earlier this week, North Korea threatened to launch 4 intermediate-range missiles towards Guam, the US island territory in the western Pacific which lies about 3,300 kilometers from Pyongyang.
The North's military said 4 Hwasong-12 missiles would be aimed to come down "30 to 40 kilometers away from Guam."
Guam, the US military's base in the western Pacific, is home to some 7,000 US troops.
It is also home to some 42,800 Filipinos, according to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.
Should Filipinos be worried?
As tensions escalate between North Korea and the US, Philippine officials said they are preparing for possible missile attacks near Guam, which lies around 2,500 kilometers from the Philippines
"The embassies and consulates in general, including the one in Agana, Guam, have contingency plans which are regularly updated to enable them to respond to emergencies," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Thursday.
"So in other words, it’s pretty automatic that if there are any threats, especially for those who are in affected areas, they have contingency plans for those things," he added.
Meanwhile, Philippine Consul General in Guam Marciano de Borja said in an interview with CNN Philippines that they would ask support from the Philippine government for evacuation if the threat is imminent.
On Friday, the Philippine military said there was only a "remote" chance that debris from a possible missile strike near Guam would reach the country.
"We don’t see this as potentially hitting us in any way because it is directed towards an outer island in the Pacific itself. So whatever fallout it may have, maybe because of debris, if it disintegrates up there," Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said.
"[Debris] could hit some northern coastal areas. We have to forewarn our citizens to be on the lookout. But that’s something that we see as remote," Padilla added.
US, Japan defenses
Both the US and Japan also have missile defense systems set in place in the Asia-Pacific region, intended to shoot down any missiles from North Korea.
The two countries are equipped with the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) system, while the powerful anti-missile system, THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense), has been successfully tested against an intermediate range ballistic missile last month. (READ: Hit or miss? North Korea's Guam strike plan)
The exchange of words between the US and North Korea has led some analysts to say that the region is facing a "mini Cuban missile crisis," referring to the confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union in October 1962 over the presence of Soviet nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba.
The 13-day standoff prompted fears that the world was on the brink of a disastrous nuclear war. Then-US president John F. Kennedy placed a naval blockade around Cuba and demanded that the Soviets remove the missiles already placed in Cuba, and warned that the US would use military force if necessary to protect national security.
Crisis was averted when the Soviets agreed to dismantle the weapon sites in exchange for the US promise not to invade Cuba.
The Philippines has previously condemned Pyongyang's missile launches along with the international community. Ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum held in Manila, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano even said the country is considering downgrading its ties with North Korea because of its missile tests.
While Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warmly welcomed North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho for the ASEAN meetings, he had previously called North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un a "maniac" playing with "dangerous toys."
Korea expert Robert Kelly, a political science professor at Pusan National University in South Korea, earlier said the Philippines' being on the flight path of North Korea's missile tests is "disturbing."
In December 2012, rocket debris from a North Korean rocket launch fell in waters off northern Luzon. The Philippines is about 3,000 km away from North Korea.
But Kelly and other experts say the Philippines does not play a major role in the crisis with North Korea. – Rappler.com