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US-North Korean tensions prompt delay in Guam-Japan flights

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have prompted a Hong Kong-based airline to delay flights between the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam and Japan.

HK Express announced five weeks ago that it planned to start the flights on Oct. 29, but has since delayed flights until next summer “in view of geopolitical concerns in the region,” Pacific Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/2xqBUab ).

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has threatened Guam. The country has fired two missiles over Japan including one launched on Friday.

Passengers who bought tickets will get refunds, HK Express said in a statement Friday. Customers outside of Guam will also be eligible for a destination change or free transfers to United Airlines flights.

The flight cancellation is the latest hit for the island since tensions with North Korea escalated.

The island’s tourism industry lost $9.5 million in August after there were more than 7,000 cancellations from tours, school groups and business ventures — mostly from Japan — despite Guam leaders’ constant reassurance that the island is safe and well-protect from possible attacks, according to a report by the Guam Visitors Bureau.

“It’s hard to change the perception of visitors that now see Guam as risky,” the bureau’s Global Marketing Director Pilar Laguana said earlier this month.

HK Express also stopped Guam-Hong Kong flights in June. That cancellation was prompted by operational cost concerns, said Nathan Denight, the president and CEO of the visitors bureau.

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