Earlier this week, Hawaii reportedly tested its system of nuclear sirens for the first time since the 1960s as the state’s governor warned that he was taking North Korea’s threats of nuclear annihilation extremely seriously. Today, the Telegraph is reporting that the paranoia has spread to Japan, where millions of Tokyo residents will participate in evacuation drills meant to simulate their response to North Korean nuclear strike.
And Tokyo isn’t the first city to conduct these types of large scale drills: Towns facing the Korean Peninsula have conducted similar drills in recent months.
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.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called on 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.
Many ordinary Japanese believe the evacuation drills are an important precaution. One Tokyo resident said he participates because he believes that, if North Korea chose to attack, Tokyo would be the logical target.
"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.
"Evacuation drills are a sensible precaution that would help to minimize casualties, in much the same way as we practice what to do in the event of a major earthquake", he said.
"And if war did break out, then I think it is unfortunately inevitable that North Korea would target Tokyo", he added. "The US has a major military base at Yokota, to the west of the city, and its main naval base in the region is at Yokosuka, to the southwest.
"It is hard to believe they would not want to strike those military concentrations," he said, adding that it is unlikely that the North Korean regime would be particularly concerned about casualties among civilians living nearby.
Last week, North Korea launched its ne Hwasong-15 ICBM, the country’s first missile test in more than two months. The missile’s peak height and flight time have led experts to suspect that it could probably strike anywhere on the Continental US – though perhaps not with the highest degree of accuracy.
Like the US, Japan is also at risk of an airburst – the detonation of a nuclear weapon far above the earth’s surface that could knock out the country’s power grid, indirectly killing hundreds of thousands of people.