Sirens blared in the streets of a Japanese city on Friday, the latest community to conduct evacuation drills in a region wary of the threat of North Korean missiles. School children in Sakata, a city on Japan’s northeast coast, crouched down with their hands over their heads and then ran into their gymnasium for shelter. Residents who could not make it to a designated evacuation centre knelt or lay down in the middle of rice fields. “In the past, I felt like these had nothing to do with me,” college student Makoto Nanba, 20, said of North Korea’s missile launches, as she gathered with others at the school gym.
“But because their frequency has gone up, it doesn’t feel like a distant problem anymore.” Japan has stepped up evacuation drills in recent months as North Korea tests missiles in defiance of international pressure to halt its weapons programme.
Japanese authorities estimate that it would take only 10 minutes for a North Korean missile to reach Japan. North Korea has launched 16 missiles in 10 tests this year, the latest on Thursday when four surface-to-ship cruise missiles travelled about 200 km (124 miles) from Wonsan in the east of the reclusive country.