Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated  / Source: Reuters
By Arata Yamamoto

TOKYO — Japan held its first civilian evacuation drill for a missile attack Friday, amid wariness over the military threat potentially posed by North Korea.

The exercise took place in the northwestern city of Oga and involved around 100 civilian participants.

Image: Elementary school students crouch during an evacuation drill
Elementary school students crouch during an evacuation drill in Oga, Japan, on Friday.Jun Hirata / Kyodo News via AP

It follows North Korea's launch of four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan's northwest coast earlier this month, with one landing about 124 miles from Oga.

Authorities organizing the drill refrained from naming any particular country that could be involved in a missile attack on Japan.

The Oga city government’s disaster prevention website said the drill was conducted under the hypothetical scenario of ballistic missiles launched by a “Nation X” landing in the waters 12 miles off the coast of Akita Prefecture.

Residents of the largely rural peninsula — which juts into the ocean about 280 miles north of Tokyo — made their way to a designated evacuation center equipped with emergency kits and protective gear.

Children in another part of town crouched down to the ground before hurrying inside a gymnasium.

"I've seen missiles flying between foreign countries on television, but I never imagined this would happen to us," Hideo Motokawa, a 73-year-old who participated in the drill, told Reuters.

Officials said the exercise was prompted by growing concern about the regional security situation.

Speaking at a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said: “We believe this is a very important exercise in terms of furthering the understanding among residents about the actions they need to take when the government issues information about a missile launch."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe branded the March 6 missile launches by Kim Jong Un's regime as “an extremely dangerous action.”

North Korea is developing nuclear-tipped missiles, in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions. It is also conducting nuclear tests in what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described during a visit to Japan as an "ever-escalating threat."

On Friday, Tillerson said that military action against North Korea was "on the table" if the country continues to develop its weapons program.

A North Korean official in Beijing told journalists Thursday that his country needed to strengthen its nuclear capabilities against an "aggressive" America "given threats from U.S. and relevant countries."