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North Korea’s threats prompt evacuation drills in region

Dec 08,2017
Some countries in the region are holding emergency evacuation drills out of fear of nuclear or missile attack by North Korea.

Those fears were heightened after Pyongyang’s launch of a new Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Nov. 29, which analysts concluded could hit all parts of the U.S. mainland.

Hawaii conducted an evacuation drill on Dec. 1 to prepare for a possible North Korean nuclear or missile attack, airing sirens reminiscent of the darkest days of the Cold War.

Japan is considering evacuation drills too, which would start in January.

Japanese media reported that evacuation drills are being planned for residents of central Tokyo between January and March, a first for that city.

Last week, U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster warned that the potential for war is “increasing every day” following Pyongyang’s ICBM test last week. He said China needs to act on the issue, and warned of possible nuclear proliferation in the region by countries like South Korea and Japan if the threat continued.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina went as far as to say, “It’s now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea” in light of North Korea’s provocations.

Even China has been showing concerns about North Korea’s nuclear threat.

The Jilin Daily, which is run by a provincial branch of the Chinese Communist Party, on Wednesday ran a full page feature offering tips on how to protect yourself against a nuclear attack and exposure to radiation. Jilin Province in northeastern China, borders North Korea.

That same day, an opinion piece carried by the Global Times, China’s state-run tabloid, cautioned readers “not to worry” because the first line of attack by North Korea in case of war would be South Korea, not China.

Chinese media has also been repeating the line that Beijing has done what it can already.

North Korea warned that it will not avoid war with the United States if it is necessary, amid a large joint air combat exercise between Seoul and Washington this week, which is dubbed Vigilant Ace 18.

“We do not wish for a war but shall not hide from it, and should the U.S. miscalculate our patience and light the fuse for a nuclear war, we will surely make the U.S. dearly pay the consequences with our mighty nuclear force which we have consistently strengthened,” reported the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

But South Korea is not considering evacuation drills.

“At this current point, we are not considering a large-scale evacuation drill,” a key Blue House official said Thursday.

Another official said, “The South Korean government’s movements gives an important signal managing the North Korea nuclear issue. South Korea, as we are directly affected, cannot help but have a different response than neighboring countries.”

Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha told CNN this week, “There is no concrete evidence that they have mastered the technology that is required to be able to put a nuclear device on a long-range nuclear missile.”

But another key official pointed out, “Truthfully, because we have not considered the possibility of a nuclear attack, our military’s nuclear attack evacuation program is nonexistent.”

BY KANG TAE-HWA, PARK YU-MI AND SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]