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Japan missile defense drill aims to ease concern over North Korean threat

  • Japan opened a missile defense drill to the public in an attempt to ease concerns about the threat of a nuclear attack from hostile neighbor North Korea
  • This will be followed by broadcasts and newspaper advertisements advising Japanese people how to respond in the event of an attack
  • Japan has also begun a $1 billion upgrade program of its defenses against North Korea's nuclear missiles, though the first of these will not be ready until 2020
People watch a television news report on North Korea firing what appears to be several land-to-ship missiles off its east coast at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, on June 8, 2017.
Kim Hong-Ji | Reuters
People watch a television news report on North Korea firing what appears to be several land-to-ship missiles off its east coast at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, on June 8, 2017.

Japan opened a missile defense drill to the public on Wednesday, a move it says will reassure the country it is ready to counter any missile attack by neighboring North Korea.

A PAC-3 Patriot battery drove on to the Asaka Self Defense Forces base near Tokyo, deployed its radar antenna and raised its missile launcher to firing position. The drill is one of four being held across Japan.

"Making this public is a way to reassure people about their safety and bring peace of mind," Akinori Hanada, an Air Self Defense Force major, told reporters.

North Korea has pushed ahead with its missile and nuclear weapons programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and regularly threatens to destroy the United States, Japan and South Korea.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said this month North Korea's advancing weapons programs were the "most urgent" threat to national security and that its means to deliver them had increased in speed and scope.

South Korea has deployed the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system to protect against the North Korean threat, angering China, North Korea's lone major ally.

Japan's PAC-3 batteries are the last line of defense against any incoming warheads. With a range of around 15 km (9 miles), they are only able to protect larger cities and key government installations.

Advances in North Korea's ballistic missile program have raised concern in Tokyo that its PAC-3 batteries and Aegis destroyers in the Sea of Japan could be overwhelmed.

Japan has begun a $1 billion program to upgrade the PAC-3s to extend their range and accuracy, but the first of those will not be ready until 2020.

In addition to public PAC-3 exercises, some Japanese prefectures have also conducted missile attack evacuation drills in recent weeks.

Japan will follow these up with a series of 30-second public information broadcasts and newspaper ads beginning Friday advising people what to do in the event of a North Korean missile attack, the Yomiuri newspaper said.

A Japanese government spokeswoman declined to comment when asked about the report.

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