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Japan confirms missile evacuations drills 'postponed'

By Elizabeth Shim
Japan confirms missile evacuations drills 'postponed'
Japan's missile evacuation drills are postponed indefinitely, Tokyo confirmed Friday. File Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA-EFE

June 22 (UPI) -- The Japanese government confirmed Friday it will cancel future missile evacuation drills involving civilians, but announcements over the satellite-based J-Alert system would continue.

Tokyo's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the drills are not necessary at present, citing the easing of tensions, South Korean news service Newsis reported.

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"The urgent situation of Japan's guarantee of security has been alleviated by the U.S.-North Korea summit," Suga said. "We will for the moment hold off on nine kinds of civilian evacuation drills in Tochigi and Kagawa Prefectures."

But the government will continue to "train in information delivery through the nationwide instant alarm system," Suga said.

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J-Alert provides early warnings to more than 200 Japanese municipalities in the Chugoku and Shikoku regions. It transmits alerts to mobile phones and televisions and warns people to take shelter.

Japan has conducted 29 evacuation drills, beginning March 2017.

Tokyo is keen to begin negotiations over the issue of Japanese abductees. The government claims North Korea abducted 17 people from Japanese coastal areas between 1977 and 1983, and maintains North Korea is still holding prisoners.

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North Korea may have been planning a rapprochement with Japan last year.

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According to the Nikkei, there have been plans in North Korea to work toward diplomatic normalization with Tokyo as early as October 2017.

A source in North Korea told the Nikkei there were internal discussion at the Korean Workers' party last fall on ways to approach the United States, China, South Korea, Russia and Japan.

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The North Koreans discussed ways to reach out to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration through secret contacts, then request the easing of sanctions, if Japan requests to send a team of investigators on the abduction issue, according to the Japanese newspaper.

Abe has previously said economic assistance to North Korea would be considered only on the condition the abduction issue is resolved.

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