Japan has decided to halt evacuation drills to prepare for a potential North Korean missile attack as tensions had eased following a historic summit between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea, Kyodo news agency reported on Thursday.
U.S. President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore last week and Mr. Kim committed to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, while Mr. Trump said he would end what he called provocative U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
Japan welcomed the summit as a first step towards the denuclearisation of North Korea, but also said the U.S.-South Korean exercises were a vital deterrent to North Korean threats. North Korea last year launched two missiles that flew over Japan.
Concrete steps needed
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga repeated that it was vital for North Korea to take concrete steps toward complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of all its weapons of mass destruction and missiles. Mr. Suga noted, however, that North Korea has said it would not conduct tests and Mr. Kim had promised complete denuclearisation. He also said that the matter of the drills was under consideration. Japan is eyeing a meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Mr. Kim government sources said a week ago, and Japanese media have reported that one possibility was for Mr. Abe to visit Pyongyang, perhaps as early as August.
Japan’s capital of Tokyo held its first evacuation drill in January and smaller Japanese towns and villages have conducted similar exercises.
Kyodo said there were plans for evacuation drills this year in nine prefectures. An official in Yaita, in northern Japan, told Reuters that Tochigi Prefecture, where it is located, had notified the city that the central government had decided to halt the planned drill “taking into account the international situation”.
Kyodo said several other prefectures had also been notified of the imminent decision to halt the drills.