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Taking cover

Eyeing North Korea, Tokyo holds first missile evacuation drill in years

Eyeing North Korea, Tokyo holds first missile evacuation drill in years
A view from the Shibuya Sky observation deck at the Shibuya Scramble Square building in Tokyo, Japan, on Tuesday, April 25, 2023. Photographer: Kentaro Takahashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

TOKYO, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Tokyo residents dashed for cover inside a train station on Monday as part of the first missile evacuation drill in the capital for years as Japan frets over the growing threat from nearby North Korea.

Around 60 residents participated in the drill in Tokyo’s Nerima ward, which follows a series of recent test launches from the nuclear-armed North of everything from short-range and cruise missiles to massive intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that can strike the continental United States.

Some of these launches, including a missile that flew over Japan’s southern islands on Aug. 24, have triggered Japan’s J-Alert system which allows authorities to instantly send warnings via television, email and cellphone notifications to residents.

However Mutsumi Takahashi, a disaster prevention official helping to run Monday’s drill, said some people still don’t know what to do when the J-Alert goes off, underlining the need for more simulations.

“I think we need to continue conducting training to inform residents of the correct actions to take in the event that (a missile) falls or passes over,” Takahashi said.

Japan has held more than a dozen such drills nationwide this year, though Monday’s drill was the first in Tokyo since 2018.

The participants, wearing bibs, were divided into groups at a train station and a park. When the test missile alert was sounded, police and disaster prevention officials with loudspeakers hurried the groups to designated shelter areas where they crouched down with their hands over their heads.

But not all residents were in favour of the drills.

A few dozen anti-war demonstrators gathered in front of the train station where the drill took place, chanting and holding signs that read “Missile drill is preparation for war” and “Diplomatic dialogue instead of missile drills”.

(Reporting by Francis Tang; Editing by John Geddie and Gareth Jones)

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