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Iran Press TV

Following in US, South Korea's footsteps, Japan cancels own drills

Iran Press TV

Thu Jun 21, 2018 09:35AM

Japan has reportedly decided to suspend a number of drills following the relative easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula that has come amid renewed diplomacy with North Korea.

Japan's Kyodo news agency reported on Thursday that Tokyo had cancelled nine civilian evacuation drills, which had been scheduled to be held in nine prefectures later this year in an attempt to prepare Japanese residents for potential missile attacks from Pyongyang.

The suspension of the drills leaked to the news after officials in Tochigi Prefecture confirmed that a drill there next Tuesday had been called off at Tokyo's request.

Kyodo quoted an official in the northern city of Yaita, where the Tochigi Prefecture is located, as saying that the central government had decided to halt the planned drill after "taking into account the international situation."

Japan's Cabinet office told Reuters that an official announcement concerning the drills would be released on Friday as the threat of North Korean missile strikes had been eliminated following recent diplomatic developments between Washington and Pyongyang.

South and North Koreas suddenly began to mend ties in January. Later, the US, too, engaged in diplomacy with Pyongyang, which culminated in a summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12.

In the Singapore summit, the US and North Korea committed to working "toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Trump later said he would end the "provocative" US-South Korea military exercises, and the two countries proceeded to suspend a range of their "large-scale" military drills.

The US has about 28,500 service members stationed in South Korea.

The annual drills have in the past been a major source of tension on the Korean Peninsula but have also been considered by Seoul and Tokyo as a bulwark against perceived North Korean aggression.

Japan has reacted with concern at Washington's plans to end military exercises with Seoul, saying such drills were vital for East Asian security. But Tokyo has had to get along, as it is heavily dependent on the US both politically and militarily.

North Korea test-launched two missiles that flew over Japan last year. American anti-missile systems stationed in Japan were not used to intercept those missiles.

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