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.


Further Taliban assaults likely in weeks ahead — US Defense chief Mattis

Updated 5 min 8 sec ago
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Further Taliban assaults likely in weeks ahead — US Defense chief Mattis

  • The Taliban had six objectives in and around the city of Ghazni and failed to seize any of them
  • Some Taliban fighters were still holed up in houses in the city ‘trying to get resupplied’

BOGOTA, Colombia: The Taliban is likely to keep up its recent surge of violence in advance of scheduled parliamentary elections in October but Western-backed Afghan defenses will not break, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday.
In his most detailed comments on the Taliban’s assault on the eastern city of Ghazni since it began Aug. 10, Mattis said the Taliban had six objectives in and around the city and failed to seize any of them. He would not specify the six sites.
In Ghazni, provincial police chief Farid Mashal said Thursday that roads were being cleared of mines planted by Taliban who temporarily held entire neighborhoods of the city that they had besieged. The fighting continued for five days with more than 100 members of the Afghan National Security forces killed and 20 civilians. Scores of Taliban were also killed, according to Afghan officials.
Mattis said some Taliban fighters were still holed up in houses in the city “trying to get resupplied.” He said businesses are reopening, and overall, “it’s much more stable” in Ghazni, showing that the Taliban have fallen short.
“They have not endeared themselves, obviously, to the population of Ghazni,” Mattis said. “They use terror. They use bombs because they can’t win with ballots.”
The Taliban operation followed a familiar pattern, Mattis said in remarks to reporters flying with him Thursday evening to Bogota, Colombia, where he was winding up a weeklong tour of South America.
The insurgents likely were trying to gain leverage in advance of an expected cease fire offer by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, he said. And they likely were hoping to sow fear in advance of the October elections, he added.
“They achieved a degree of disquiet,” he said, but nothing more.
“So, we’ll continue to see this sort of thing,” he said, even though the Taliban lack the strength to hold territory they seize for brief periods. “They will never hold against the Afghan army.”
The Afghan war has been stalemated for years. The Taliban lack the popular support to prevail, although they benefit from sanctuary in Pakistan. Afghan government forces, on the other hand, are too weak to decisively break the insurgents even as they develop under US and NATO training and advising.
Mattis has said he believes the Afghan security forces are gaining momentum and can wear down the Taliban to the point where the insurgents would choose to talk peace. So far that approach has not produced a breakthrough.
Next week will mark one year since President Donald Trump announced a revised war strategy for Afghanistan, declaring there would be no time limit on US support for the war and making a renewed push for peace negotiations.