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Japan conducts missile drills in Tokyo despite detente

By Elizabeth Shim
Protesters shout slogans against a missile evacuation drill organized at an amusement park near Tokyo Dome stadium in Tokyo on Monday. The red characters on the banner read, "It's a war exercise!" Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA-EFE
Protesters shout slogans against a missile evacuation drill organized at an amusement park near Tokyo Dome stadium in Tokyo on Monday. The red characters on the banner read, "It's a war exercise!" Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA-EFE

Jan. 22 (UPI) -- The Japanese government conducted a missile drill in the heart of Tokyo, the first time the current administration has coordinated a rehearsal evacuation in the capital.

The drills come after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered a speech about North Korea's provocations "becoming worse," despite several weeks of détente on the peninsula, following North Korea's decision to participate in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

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The drills began Monday with the ringing of sirens that warned hundreds of people in central Tokyo to duck for cover in buildings and under ground, Bloomberg reported.

The aim of the drill was to raise awareness about potential ballistic missiles headed for Japan's largest city.

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North Korea's firing of two missiles that flew over Japanese territory in 2017 has heightened concerns over security.

Akina Osawa, 34, said the drills were a "chance to learn" about preparations.

But according to Bloomberg, others have criticized the government for exaggerating the North Korean threat.

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Participants in the drill said they did not feel the exercises were necessary.

One elderly man who spoke to South Korean television network KBS said he "did not feel" a sense of crisis, and an elderly woman said the drills are valuable "depending on the person."

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Abe had said he would take concrete actions as provocations worsen and Japan is under threat.

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Japan's security depends heavily on coordination with allies, including the United States and South Korea.

It is unclear whether Abe valued the alliance with Seoul, however, according to KBS.

Abe did not describe South Korea as an "important neighbor that shares strategic interests" with Japan, a remark he did make in 2017.

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