News

False Alarm Sounded Saturday in Japan over North Korean Missile Launch

A false alarm was sounded in Japan Saturday when the government announced North Korea had carried out an expected rocket launch. Japan quickly rescinded the announcement but not before the report had been widely disseminated both in the country and internationally.

A jittery Japan went on high alert after Pyongyang announced that an anticipated launch from North Korea was imminent.

But the Japanese government's emergency network, headquartered at the Prime Minister's office, acted prematurely. It announced at 12:16 p.m. local time Saturday North Korea had fired the rocket. The report was immediately aired on national broadcast networks and local authorities activated their emergency responses in areas where it was feared debris from stages of the missile could fall.

International news agencies also disseminated the announcement.

Five minutes later an embarrassed Japanese government retracted the alert.

At a regional government emergency center in Niigata, officials repeatedly utter "mistake, mistake" to spread the word.  

Later in the day, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada apologized.

Hamada says he wants to make a heartfelt apology to the people of Japan for causing tremendous trouble to them. The defense minister says it is the fault of the Defense Ministry and Self Defense Forces due to a mistake in the transmission of information.  

Government officials pinpointed the error as originating at an Air Self-Defense Force radar station, in Chiba Prefecture, which had detected a "flying object" over the Sea of Japan.

Japanese media report, however, there was no indication of a launch from a U.S. early warning satellite system, which is to be used by Japan to verify such an event.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, the top government spokesman, also faced reporters to explain what happened.

Kawamura says he also wants to apologize for the confusion caused by the government's mistaken announcement of a missile launch. He adds that all alert systems remain in place for the anticipated launch - now not expected to occur before Sunday - and the government will strive to be accurate with further announcements.

North Korea, on Saturday, through its official media, announced all preparations had been completed at the launch site in Musudan-ri, in the north-eastern part of the country.

A television news announcer in Pyongyang says North Korea's launch of what it terms an experimental communications satellite would be sent into space "soon."

North Korea previously informed international aviation and shipping agencies that the launch would take place between April 4 and the 8.

The impending launch has caused anxiety for Japan, which along with the United States and South Korea, have called on North Korea not to proceed. Those governments say such a launch - which they believe will be a ballistic missile test - would violate a United Nations Security Council resolution.

The 2006 U.N. action demanded Pyongyang drop all development related to ballistic missiles.

In an unprecedented defensive posture, Japan has deployed Aegis-class destroyers to its northern coast and repositioned Patriot missile batteries in case it needs to shoot down any debris that threatens Japan. Some of the Patriot PAC-3 land-to-air missile systems have been placed in and around Tokyo, the capital. Others are in two northern prefectures expected to be below the flight path of the North Korean missile.

Japan says the launch endangers its security but has backed away from earlier threats to try to shoot down the missile. North Korea said any such action by Japan would mean war.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs