Japan to halt evacuation drills after North Korea denuclearization pledge | News | DW | 21.06.2018
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Japan to halt evacuation drills after North Korea denuclearization pledge

Following North Korea's commitment to "complete denuclearization," Japan has planned to stop evacuation drills. North Korea previously threatened to "sink" Japan into the sea and to turn it into "ashes."

An anti-missile evacuation drill in Tokyo in January (Reuters/K. Kung-Hoon)

People in Japan participate in an anti-missile evacuation drill in Tokyo

Japan plans to halt the civilian evacuation drills it began in January after North Korea test-fired missiles near and over Japanese islands, local media reported Thursday.

The official announcement of the suspension was underway and recent diplomatic developments meant the prospect of strikes from North Korean missiles has subsided for now, news agency AP reported the Cabinet Secretariat in charge of crisis management as saying.

Read more: Opinion: United States leaves Japan in cold on North Korea

The intention to suspend the drills came to light on Thursday after officials in Tochigi prefecture confirmed a drill there next Tuesday had been canceled at the government's request.

Nine drills to prepare residents in Japan for potential missile attacks were due to be held this year.

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As Japan's plan to halt the drills was revealed, the country's defense minister, Itsunori Onodera, said Japan and the US needed to be wary until North Korea took serious action towards denuclearizing.

Last week, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a joint document calling for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Read more: Is Japan breaking with pacifism to increase defense spending?

"North Korea has yet to show any concrete steps towards denuclearization," Onodera said ahead of two days of talks with US Indo-Pacific military commander Philip Davidson in Tokyo.

Davidson, who is on his first official visit to Japan, was quick to try and ease his concerns, saying the US remained committed to the "irreversible" denuclearization of North Korea.

Read more: North Korea denuclearization: Can Pyongyang be trusted?

Japan relies on the US for its defense and operates closely with its military, hosting some 50,000 US military personnel and the biggest overseas concentration of US Marines.

North Korea has made intimidating comments to key US ally Japan in the past, such as threatening to "sink" the country into the sea and to turn it into "ashes."

law/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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