Millions of residents of Tokyo are to take part in evacuation drills simulating a North Korean nuclear attack on the Japanese capital.
The national and city governments are to carry out a series of exercises between January and March to prepare for a potential attack on Tokyo, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported, the first time that a major Japanese city will have carried out responses to a simulated attack.
Towns facing the Korean Peninsula have in recent months conducted similar drills, with residents instructed to seek shelter in response to sirens warning of an imminent missile strike.
But the Japanese government has until now resisted calls for major cities to carry out similar exercises on the grounds that they would alarm the public.
Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, has also called in local governments throughout the country to identify underground facilities or buildings that are sufficiently sturdy to withstand a missile attack and to designate those facilities as shelters.
Given North Korea’s worsening relations with surrounding nations and the regime’s advances in nuclear weapons and missile systems, many in Japan believe evacuation exercises for the public are a prudent precaution.
“I believe the threat is very real and that war could break out at any time”, said Ken Kato, a human rights campaigner who lives in Tokyo. Nearly 9.3 million people live in the city, with millions more travelling into the metropolis every day for work.
“I also believe that the average Japanese person does not want to think about the worst-case scenario because it is simply too unpleasant, but we cannot keep our heads in the sand any longer”, he told The Telegraph.