Japan finds glitches in missile-alert system

A PAC3 launcher, used to intercept missiles, is deployed on the grounds of the Japanese Defence Ministry in central Tokyo on Friday. (EPA Photo)

TOKYO: Japanese authorities on Friday tested emergency alert systems in areas in and around the possible flight path of North Korean missiles but the exercise exposed a series of technical glitches.

The drill for the satellite-based J-Alert system covered 202 municipalities in nine prefectures in the Chugoku and Shikoku regions of western Japan, and tested the ability of municipalities receiving alerts to automatically broadcast them to residents.

But in some areas in Tottori and Kochi, outdoor loudspeakers that were supposed to broadcast an alert message from the central government failed to function. In Shimane and Okayama, characters in alert emails that the prefectural government sent to registered residents were corrupted and unreadable.

In Hiroshima, emails could not be transmitted in two cities, while in another Hiroshima city and a city in Tokushima, voice alerts did not reach households via a cable TV network.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said it would look into the causes of the technical failures and decide whether to conduct the exercise again.

The results call to mind the embarrassment experienced by Thai authorities last month when they conceded that about 80% of the equipment installed for tsunami warning systems did not function properly.

North Korea threatened last week to simultaneously launch toward waters near the US territory of Guam in the western Pacific. The suggested flight path would take the missiles over Shimane, Hiroshima, Ehime and Kochi prefectures.

The drill took place in the four prefectures, plus the adjoining prefectures of Tottori, Okayama, Yamaguchi, Tokushima and Kagawa.

In the event North Korea launches a missile that is feared to fly over Japan or fall within Japanese territory, on land or at sea, the J-Alert system will transmit information to areas along the path of the missile.

Under the system, warnings may also be issued for people in at-risk areas to take shelter underground or within structurally robust buildings.

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