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International News


ALARMING ALERT. A smartphone shows the NHK television news website saying "North Korea appears to have fired a missile" and "The government: Seek shelter inside buildings and basements" (second from top) in Tokyo. Japan’s public broadcaster mistakenly sent an alert warning citizens of a North Korean missile launch and urging them to seek immediate shelter, then minutes later, corrected it, top, days after a similar error in Hawai‘i. The top message reads: "The flash of North Korea’s missile launch was a mistake." (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

 

From The Asian Reporter, V28, #3 (February 5, 2018), page 3.

Japan public TV sends mistaken North Korean missile alert

By Mari Yamaguchi

The Associated Press

TOKYO — Japan’s public broadcaster mistakenly sent an alert warning citizens of a North Korean missile launch and urging them to seek immediate shelter, then minutes later corrected it, days after a similar error in Hawai‘i.

NHK television issued the message on its internet and mobile news sites as well as on Twitter, saying North Korea appeared to have fired a missile at Japan. It said the government was telling people to evacuate and take shelter.

"North Korea appears to have fired a missile," NHK said, adding that a government warning had been issued. "The government: Seek shelter inside buildings and basements."

The false alarm came days after Hawai‘i’s Emergency Management Agency sent a mistaken warning of a North Korean missile attack to mobile phones across the state, triggering panic.

NHK said the mistake was the result of an error by a staff member who was operating the alert system for online news, but did not elaborate. NHK deleted the tweet and text warning after several minutes, issued a correction, and apologized several times on air and on other formats.

"The flash was a mistake," NHK said. "We are very sorry."

Tension has grown in Japan over North Korean missile tests as they have flown closer to Japanese coasts. NHK and other Japanese media generally alert each missile test, and the government has issued emergency notices when the missiles flew over Japan.

Japan is also stepping up its missile intercepting capabilities and conducting missile drills across the country in which residents, including schoolchildren and elderly people, rush to community centers, cover their heads, and duck down to the floor.

Unlike the mistaken Hawai‘i warning, the NHK alert did not contain the statement, "This is not a drill." NHK was able to correct its error in a few minutes, far faster than the nearly 40 minutes that lapsed before the Hawai‘i alert was withdrawn.

The Hawai‘i agency has now changed its protocols to require that two people send an alert and made it easier to cancel a false alarm.

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