Fri, Jun 22, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Japan to suspend civilian drills, cites N Korea overtures

AP and The Guardian, TOKYO and WASHINGTON

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, second left, and his wife Ri Sol-ju, left, meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, second right, and his wife Peng Liyuan at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Wednesday.

Photo: EPA

Japan plans to suspend the civilian evacuation drills it started last year when North Korea was repeatedly test-firing missiles near and over Japanese islands, officials said yesterday, citing diplomatic overtures from Pyongyang.

Nine drills to prepare residents in Japan for possible missile attacks were to be held later this year.

The Cabinet Secretariat in charge of crisis management said the official announcement of the suspension was expected soon and that recent diplomatic developments meant the prospect of strikes from North Korean missiles has subsided for now.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week promised at his summit with US President Donald Trump to work toward a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

The planned suspension surfaced yesterday after officials in Tochigi Prefecture confirmed that a drill there scheduled to take place on Tuesday had been called off at the government’s request.

Missile drill plans in eight other prefectures were also put on hold.

The Secretariat said that the drills are suspended only as long as the tensions remain reduced.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga last week told reporters that the Trump-Kim summit has significantly relieved Japan’s security environment, but that the government still plans to go ahead with a plan to install land-based Aegis Ashore missile interceptors.

North Korea still possesses hundreds of ballistic missiles, which have not been dismantled, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Wednesday said he was unaware of any steps taken by North Korea toward dismantling its nuclear weapons program since the Singapore summit and does not expect any in the immediate future.

Mattis was speaking to reporters amid confusion over the diplomatic follow-up to last week’s summit.

Immediately after the meeting Trump said that North Korea had begun the destruction of a missile engine testing site or would begin to do so as soon as Kim returned from the summit.

In return, Trump ordered the suspension of military exercises with South Korea, a longstanding demand of the Pyongyang regime.

The Pentagon this week confirmed that planning for the next scheduled exercises in August had been halted.

However, asked on Wednesday if he could “put his finger on” any steps North Korea had taken to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon: “No, I’m not aware of that. The detailed negotiations have not begun. I wouldn’t expect that at this point.”

After the Singapore meeting, Trump said that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House national security adviser John Bolton would take part in follow-up meetings with North Korean officials this week to “go into the details” of the denuclearization agreement the president believed he had struck with Kim.

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