On Monday, Tokyo residents hurriedly sought refuge within a train station, participating in the capital’s first missile evacuation drill in years. This exercise reflects Japan’s increasing concerns about the mounting threat posed by its nearby neighbor, North Korea.
Approximately 60 residents took part in the drill in Tokyo’s Nerima ward. This exercise comes in the wake of a series of recent test launches conducted by the nuclear-armed North, encompassing a range of missiles, including short-range and cruise missiles, as well as formidable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the continental United States.
Certain missile launches, such as the one that passed over Japan’s southern islands on August 24, activated Japan’s J-Alert system. This system lets authorities promptly transmit alerts to residents through various channels, including television, email, and cellphone notifications.
Japan has conducted over a dozen such drills across the country this year. However, Monday’s exercise marked the first missile evacuation drill in Tokyo since 2018. During the drill, participants, wearing identification bibs, were grouped at a train station and a park. When the simulated missile alert was sounded, police and disaster prevention officials used loudspeakers to guide the groups to designated shelter areas quickly. There, participants followed safety protocols by crouching down and covering their heads.
However, not all residents supported these drills. A small group of anti-war demonstrators assembled in front of the train station where the exercise was conducted. They chanted slogans and displayed signs with messages like “missile drill is preparation for war” and “diplomatic dialogue instead of missile drills.”
The Growing Threat from North Korea
On June 15, North Korea launched two short-range missiles off its east coast, according to reports from the South Korean military. This missile launch occurred less than an hour after North Korea had issued a warning of an “inevitable” response to military exercises conducted earlier in the day by South Korean and US troops. These events unfolded while US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, was visiting Tokyo for meetings with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts.
During a meeting with South Korea’s national security adviser, Cho Tae-yong, and Japan’s National Security Advisor Takeo Akiba, the three officials discussed North Korea’s missile program. They also affirmed their commitment to working closely together to encourage Pyongyang to relinquish its nuclear weapons. This information was conveyed in a readout of the meeting released by Japan.
Japan’s defense ministry reported that the two ballistic missiles landed within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and there are indications that they followed an irregular trajectory.
The two missiles touched down in the Sea of Japan, approximately 250 km north-northwest of Hegura island, which is part of Ishikawa prefecture. This incident marked the 13th occasion when North Korean missiles entered Japan’s EEZ, as noted by Japanese vice minister of defense Kimi Onoda.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida strongly denounced these missile launches. United Nations Security Council resolutions have prohibited North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs and imposed sanctions on the country. Despite ongoing diplomatic endeavors, attempts to alleviate tensions or convince Pyongyang to relinquish its nuclear arsenal have reached an impasse.