Japan Prepares For North Korean Missile Strikes With Disaster Drills

With North Korea continuing to fire ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, rural Japanese towns have been carrying out emergency disaster drills.


North Korea has been doing this for a while now, but these launches have spiked under Kim Jong-un.

Living here, it's been surreal to watch and listen to news reports tracking the missiles in real time.

Earlier this year, a North Korean test missile landed approximately 200km from the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, making it the closest a North Korean missile had come to striking Japanese land.

With North Korea conducting more and more missile tests, there is obvious concern that one will hit Japan. Maybe accidentally.

The guidelines are for "ballistic missiles" (弾道ミサイル or dandou misairu) and tell people who are outside to get into a sturdy structure or get underground. They also tell people to protect their heads and move away from windows.

I haven't seen similar guidelines in Osaka (yet), where I live, nor have there been any ballistic missile disaster drills. Also, none of my children's schools have held these types of drills. They have, however, held the standard earthquake and fire ones.

[Image: ANNnewsCH]

The first ballistic missile disaster drills began in Akita Prefecture this past January. Akita Prefecture borders the Sea of Japan, so there is a possibility that it could be hit by a North Korean test missile.

In Japanese, disaster drills are called "hinan kunren" (避難訓練), and unless they're at school or work, they're typically optional. For example, your apartment building or neighbourhood in Japan might have one, but not everyone participates because they might have work or other plans. However, when Japanese people think of "hinan kunren", they usually think of earthquake drills and not ballistic missile ones.

[GIF: KyotoNews]

This was a ballistic missile disaster drill in early June in Yamagata Prefecture, which also faces the Sea of Japan. As the BBC points out, these disaster drills have been happening more and more in areas on the Sea of Japan.


Such as in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

The first missile disaster drill held in the Kanto region was held in Ibaraki Prefecture late last month.

[GIF: ANNnewsCH]

One hundred people gathered in this gym for a disaster drill, while another 200 people took part in one in Onojo City, Fukuoka Prefecture.

Oita City also held a ballistic missile disaster drill in July, which will might remind you of the 1950's American "duck and cover" drills.

[GIF: 大分市公式動画チャンネル]

Not everyone is convinced that such measures will help.


Perhaps for good reason.


    All I can think of is the place scene from Fight Club. If a missile was launched they wouldn't have time to proceed with effective evacuation procedures. Best case scenario is a launched missile could take a handful of minutes to strike pretty much any part of Japan, there is no way that evacuation orders would likely even go out until after the missile has launched anyway.

    The things we tell ourselves to give us the illusion of safety.

      North Korea's arsenal is primarily ballistic missiles, which follow a high trajectory. Even for somewhere like Japan around 800-1200km away you're looking at a good 25+ minute flight time, more likely around 35 minutes. Early warning systems are in place basically all around North Korea so launches are detected almost immediately. As long as the public have practiced, that's a solid window of time to protect a decent percentage of the population.

        Errr what? It only takes a couple of minutes for a rocket traveling at a safe speed for humans to exit the atmosphere. An automated rocket travels even faster, your math is bad.

          For a 1000km surface distance, a ballistic missile typically hits around 250-300km altitude. Given 1000 and 250 the parabolic arc length should end up around 1250km.

          The Taepodong-2 ballistic missile has an average flight speed of 800m/s. Even on a directly straight line to the 1000km point, it would take 13 minutes. A 1250km parabolic arc takes around 17 minutes. Tokyo at 1200km ground distance gives a 1450km parabolic arc and 20 minutes flight time. Almost all of Sapporo is in the 25-30 minute range.

            Last year (7th of Febuary) a Taepodong was over Okinawa was over Okinawa within 10 minutes of it being detected. Granted it does take a couple of minutes (no solid number online) for them to be detected, but even if we were to assume a 20 minute travel time and instant indentification for launch, it is impossible to move that many people to shelters.

            Those procedures are very clearly designed to give the illusion of safety so people do not panic and make things worse.

              Sure, that's mostly right. The circumstances of that launch were pretty different to how DPRK would launch a missile strike on the Japanese mainland though. The February launch was from the south-west tip of North Korean territory and ran almost straight south. Okinawa Prefecture is a set of islands at the furthest south-west tip of Japan and some distance from the mainland. The missile was also well above the ground when it passed over Okinawa Prefecture, which is a half-parabolic curve (because DPRK claimed they were launching a satellite) that's faster to reach than the complete parabolic curve needed to actually impact a payload on the ground.

              While a launch from there could potentially hit the southern prefectures of mainland Japan in that kind of timeframe it would have to pass over a huge chunk of South Korea which is currently protected by both recent THAAD deployments and older ABM systems.

              From that site towards Tokyo it would barely graze the Japanese west coast in that time. An attack on the Japanese mainland is much more likely to come from the east coast, which has a longer distance to travel but avoids South Korean missile defences. Japan also has PAC-3 ABM systems spread throughout the country, though their intercept range is limited.

              Dedicated civil defence shelters are scattered around Japan, in urban areas underground parking areas are often designated evacuation points, and road and rail tunnels are also designed to serve as shelters. For the last decade or so Japan has had the J-Alert system, which almost instantly disseminates warnings across the country with loudspeakers and emergency broadcast systems in every prefecture in the country.

              I don't think anyone's suggesting the drills will result in zero casualties and be perfect defence against an attack, but I think you're really underestimating how much can be done in 15 minutes with a prepared population. It's not a guarantee, but it's certainly not an illusion.

              Just wanted to add, if you look at absolute minimum distance, you're right that the trajectory is around 600km ground distance, around 9 minutes, to the two nearest heavily populated areas, Fukuoka and Hiroshima. Taken in isolation, that would pose a very fast threat.

              The durations I quoted above take into account that it's very unlikely for DPRK to launch from the nearest point to Japan both because it would be right on the South Korean border where the launch vehicle would be easily detected in advance, and would spend around half its flight in the South Korean missile defence zone.

              Strictly speaking you're right that in the worst-case scenario there are sub-10 minute vectors. It's very unlikely for North Korea to launch anything under those conditions unless it's aimed at Seoul, so I didn't include that, but I don't want to give the impression that I was dismissing what you said out of hand.

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    "Who ever wins, We lose"

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          Last edited 10/08/17 4:20 pm

    Jeez, I come to a games site to get away from this shit. Isn't Gizmodo or Lifehacker a better dumping ground for geopolitical discourse?

    At least throw in a couple of screenshots from Command and Conquer or Homefront.

      Sadly there is always that "In Real Life" tag to fall behind when they want to post clickbait bullshit that serves no purpose and has no place

    So Saudi Arabia and the evil US empire has been committing genocide against Yemen for over for two years now but that gets zero mention.

    Tools for US empire

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