Japan weighs adding missile shelters as N. Korea threat grows

Japan weighs adding missile shelters as N. Korea threat grows

by Isabel Reynolds and Yuki Hagiwara

Japan's ruling party urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to consider building missile shelters and carrying out more evacuation drills in response to the growing threat from North Korea.

Television and other advertising should also be used to increase public awareness of the need to evacuate to a robust building or underground shopping center if a ballistic missile heads for Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party said in a proposal submitted to Abe on Thursday, hours after Kim Jong Un's regime fired another volley of missiles.

Abe told the lawmakers submitting the proposal that he wanted to deal properly with making sure the public knows what to do in the event of a missile falling on Japan.

Nuclear-armed North Korea, which already possesses rockets that can reach Japan, has accelerated its missile-testing program this year. Abe's government is considering how to bolster its existing two-layer missile-defense system, and his party has previously proposed obtaining the capacity to counter-attack.

"The country must take rapid and effective action to deal with the new level of threat from North Korea," the LDP said in the document. A wide variety of evacuation drills should be held, including in densely populated areas, it said. They should include training on dealing with chemical attacks and Japan's Self-Defense Forces need to be involved, it added.

Local governments need to designate existing buildings and underground shopping centers as evacuation points, calculate the number of people they can hold and consider building new shelters, according to the proposal. It recommends the central government formulate a plan for evacuating Japanese citizens from South Korea in an emergency.

North Korea regularly threatens Japan with nuclear annihilation. The regime's official KCNA news agency warned Thursday that the country may be "reduced into ashes" if it "behaves wickedly."

Kim has conducted 10 missile tests this year in defiance of United Nations sanctions. The rockets fired on Thursday were thought to be anti-ship cruise missiles that don't present a direct threat to the Japanese mainland.

A ballistic missile launched from North Korea would probably take about 10 minutes to fly the 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) to Japan's southern island of Okinawa, according to the government's civil protection website, leaving little time to evacuate. The government already provides information on a website about how to proceed if the missile early-warning system, called J-Alert, is activated, but the party said most people are unaware of it.

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