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Japan conducts 1st cross-gov’t tabletop exercise for N. Korea missile

TOKYO — The Japanese government in late April conducted its first tabletop exercise for ministries and other organizations based on the scenario of a North Korean missile falling on Japanese territory, government sources said Monday.


The exercise, aimed at ensuring smooth coordination between government offices, took place amid growing public concern over North Korea’s repeated test-firing of ballistic missiles, many of which have fallen in the Sea of Japan.


In March, the Japanese government conducted its first evacuation drill for residents in a city in Akita Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast to prepare for the possibility of a North Korean missile falling in the area. It plans to conduct similar exercises in June in Yamagata and Yamaguchi prefectures, also on the Sea of Japan coast.


According to the sources, the two-day tabletop exercise was conducted at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo on the assumption that North Korea had launched several missiles, with one falling in the northeastern Tohoku region. The U.S. military did not take part in the exercise.


The government chose Tohoku, apparently because North Korean missiles are often launched in the direction of the region.


On March 6, North Korea fired four missiles that fell into the Sea of Japan around 300 to 350 kilometers west of Akita Prefecture. Three of the missiles fell in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, extending around 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the Japanese coastline.


In the exercise, the science and technology ministry sought cooperation from experts and university hospitals in dealing with the situation, while the health ministry gave instructions for the dispatch of a medical team trained to work in disaster situations.


Nuclear Regulation Authority officials, meanwhile, confirmed their procedures to monitor radiation levels at nuclear facilities.


The Self-Defense Forces’ chemical corps readied themselves to engage in activities to check for toxic substances in the area where the missile landed. Discussions were also held on coordination among police, rescue workers and the Japan Coast Guard, the sources said.


The ministries and other government offices also exchanged opinions about their roles if Japan decides to extract its nationals in South Korea in the event of a North Korean attack on the South.

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