Tokyo simulates first military attack since WWII amid North Korea threat

Amusement park visitors participate in an evacuation drill in Tokyo on January 22. Every time North Korea launches a missile over Japan, the nation’s alert system warns residents via mobile phones and streetside loudspeaker broadcasts. (AFP)
Updated 22 January 2018
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Tokyo simulates first military attack since WWII amid North Korea threat

TOKYO: Hundreds of Tokyo residents scrambled for cover Monday in the Japanese capital’s first evacuation drill for a military attack since World War II, amid ongoing tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program.
A loudspeaker blared out a terrifying warning at the drill, held in a Tokyo amusement park: “We have information that a missile launch has occurred. Please evacuate calmly inside a building or underground.”
A park employee ran around, shouting “a missile was launched, a missile was launched” as some 250 local residents and office workers duly evacuated to reinforced concrete buildings and a nearby subway station.
A few minutes later, a second message was announced via loudspeaker: “The missile passed. The missile likely flew over the Kanto (greater Tokyo) region toward the Pacific Ocean.”
People in earthquake-prone Japan are familiar with evacuation drills simulating natural disasters and fires and annual drills are seasonal rituals seen almost everywhere in the country — from schools and workplaces to care homes.
But a drill simulating a North Korean missile attack on Tokyo is still a novel idea, although similar drills were held in other parts of Japan last year.
“I think it’s better than nothing to have such a drill, but I am praying there is no missile attack from the North,” Shota Matsushima, 20, a university student who was in a train station near the drill site, said.
Kana Okakuni, 19, also a student, added: “I think it’s good to take a precaution, like having drills for earthquakes.”
The drill comes as regional tensions remain high over North Korea’s nuclear and missile drive, despite the hermit state’s plan to send athletes to next months’ Winter Games in the South, which has drawn global attention.
North Korea has singled out Japan, a key US ally in the region, for verbal attacks, threatening to “sink” the country into the sea and to turn it into “ashes.”
Last year, Pyongyang fired three missiles over Japan and has splashed others into the sea near the country, sparking a mix of panic and outrage.
Every time North Korea launches a missile over Japan, the nation’s alert system warns residents via mobile phones and streetside loudspeaker broadcasts.
But many people say that such a system is useless, with too little time to evacuate and few facilities in place to survive a nuclear attack.
There have also been false alarms.
Last week, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK mistakenly flashed that North Korea appeared to have launched a missile, warning people to take cover before apologizing for the error only minutes later.
That came just days after a false cellphone warning of an incoming ballistic missile terrified residents in Hawaii.
The latest drill in Tokyo attracted some protests.
“I don’t want to participate in such a drill and I am against it, as it is a way to promote a war,” said Ikie Kamioka, 77, a former primary school teacher who was among dozens of people who rallied in protest against the drill.
“You won’t survive if a war occurs. A nuclear war would devastate everything,” she said.


What’s next for Italy as populists take charge?

Updated 21 May 2018
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What’s next for Italy as populists take charge?

  • Italy's proposed coalition mix of far-right, anti-establishment and euro-skeptic policies.
  • Both Di Maio and Salvini insist that they want to create a coalition that can last the full five-year mandate and implement their program.

ROME: A mix of far-right, anti-establishment and euro-skeptic policies, was promised by Italy’s proposed coalition government, leading the international community to wonder what the future holds for the eurozone’s third largest economy.
Here are answers to five pressing questions as the League and Five Star Movement (M5S) prepare to take charge.
Despite outspoken criticism of the European Union from both parties, the final version of the M5S-League government program does not mention a unilateral exit from the eurozone.
M5S abandoned their idea of a referendum on the euro and while the League has called the currency “a failed economic and social experiment,” the party has proposed a series of reforms and an eventual coordinated group exit along with a number of other countries in the long term.
M5S hold more clout in the new coalition having won almost 33 percent in March’s election, compared to the League’s 17 percent, even if League leader Matteo Salvini claims to represent the 37 percent who voted for his rightwing coalition.
While Salvini is the undisputed top dog of the League, the shadow of M5S founder Beppe Grillo, an outspoken former comedian, still looms large over the party led by Luigi Di Maio.
A question mark also hangs over the fate of flamboyant former premier Silvio Berlusconi. Part of the rightwing alliance with Salvini, Berlusconi begrudgingly gave the green light for the League and M5s to make a deal without his Forza Italia party.
The aging media tycoon, however, disapproves of the new government program and, after a recent court ruling overturned a ban on him holding public office, could once again be able to exert influence from inside parliament — if a member of his party offers up their seat.
Never afraid of a long shot, Berlusconi has also offered himself up as a potential future premier.
Both Di Maio and Salvini insist that they want to create a coalition that can last the full five-year mandate and implement their program.
Their parties, however, only have a wafer-thin six vote majority in the Senate, which holds the same power as that of the Chamber of Deputies, where they have a 32-vote majority.
The two parties will have to hold onto their MPs, particularly those who view the new alliance with skepticism, in order to go the distance.
A tumultuous campaign, inconclusive elections and a prolonged period of political deadlock meant that financial markets were already nervous, especially faced with the possibility of a return to the polls.
So the prospect of a M5S-League accord was initially met with some relief — until the coalition revealed their government program.
In response to the document’s costly financial measures and euroskeptic tone, key financial indicators pointed to decreasing investor confidence in Italy.
The difference in yield between Italian and German 10-year government bonds has gained 40 points in less than a week, increasing to 170 points.
Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella has the power to veto ministers and reject any law deemed financially non-viable for the country.
He is also the guarantor of Italy’s international commitments and will keep a close eye on any move to modify the country’s role on the world stage, especially given Salvini’s scathing comments about the EU and praise for Russian leader Vladimir Putin.