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Japan conducts evacuation drills amid nuclear missile threat

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TOKYO — The Japanese government is preparing its citizens in case a North Korean missile comes their way — possibly with less than 10 minutes’ warning.

About 550 people in the Sea of Japan coastal city of Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture, participated in an evacuation drill conducted under a scenario that the city received central government reports that a missile was headed its way.

When the first report arrived, a siren went off and residents were told, either electronically or by town officials, to take cover in their homes, underground shelters and ditches if they were out in the fields.

The well-drilled players huddled in the shade for a moment as the coach counted heads and then they jogged to a nearby government office.

“Even if it’s a drill, I feel scared thinking that broken pieces of glass could fly towards me,” Aren Arifuku said.

The team spent about 10 minutes kneeling with their hands over their heads.

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“I felt frightened, you never know when it [a North Korean missile] will be fired and our life becomes unstable,” said fellow player Koki Ishida.

Being a sporting man, coach Masafumi Ishida naturally had some statistics to share about the baseball players’ performance.

“As for a score, I’d like to give them 80 points,” Mr Ishida said.

Kotoura is a sleepy coastal town in Tottori prefecture, on Japan’s west coast. Looking out from its famed sand dunes, North Korea lies beyond the horizon.

Tottori prefecture is close to the likely flight path of any North Korean missiles heading towards the United States territory of Guam.

Its local government is particularly active in holding emergency drills.

Japan’s official civil defense website has had 5.7 million visitors in the first 23 days of April after North Korea has issued threats and paraded missiles this month — compared with usual monthly traffic of less than 400,000 hits, WahingPost reported.

Under the “frequently asked questions” section, the government poses the question of how many minutes it would take for a missile to reach Japan.

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US ready to talk to North Korea without preconditions

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WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said Washington is ready to begin talks on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament, without pre-conditions.

“We’re ready to have the first meeting without preconditions,” Tillerson told a meeting on the crisis at the Atlantic Council policy forum in Washington.

Tillerson’s new diplomatic overture comes nearly two weeks after North Korea said it had successfully tested a breakthrough intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that put the entire United States mainland within range of its nuclear weapons.

“Let’s just meet and let’s talk about the weather if you want and talk about whether it’s going to be a square table or a round table if that’s what you’re excited about,” Tillerson said.

This appeared to represent a softening in the US position, seeing as officials had previously demanded that Kim Jong-Un’s regime demonstrate a willingness to consider giving up its arsenal.

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But, the White House later issued an ambiguous statement that left unclear whether President Donald Trump — who has said Tillerson was wasting his time pursuing dialogue with North Korea — had given his approval for the speech.

“The president’s views on North Korea have not changed,” the White House said adding, “North Korea is acting in an unsafe way … North Korea’s actions are not good for anyone and certainly not good for North Korea.”

Meanwhile, Kim Jong-Un has vowed to make North Korea the “world’s strongest nuclear power,” tate media reported Wednesday.

Mr Kim told workers behind the recent test of a new missile that his country “will victoriously advance and leap as the strongest nuclear power and military power in the world,” in a ceremony on Tuesday, according to state news agency KCNA.

GNN/Reuters

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