Japan’s national public broadcasting organization erroneously issued an emergency alert Tuesday signaling an imminent North Korean missile strike.
“North Korea appears to have launched a missile,” Japan’s national public broadcaster NHK announced Tuesday evening, “The government urges people to take shelter inside buildings or underground.”
NHK was “deeply” apologetic after it mistakenly sent out the inaccurate emergency alert. The J-alert system, which broadcasts over televisions, to mobile phones, on the radio, and over loudspeakers, is set up to warn the Japanese people in the event of an attack. But, seeing as there was no missile, no alert should have been sent.
— NHK@首都圏 (@nhk_shutoken) January 16, 2018
Such an alert could be particularly alarming for a country that has seen North Korean ballistic missiles soar overhead multiple times in the past year.
NHK is investigating the situation.
NHK’s mistake follows a more troubling incident in Hawaii in which the following message was sent to phones across the state by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency bright and early Saturday morning: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
It took 38 minutes for the disaster management team to reveal that this was a mistake. In that time, people huddled in basements with their loved ones, assuming that their lives might soon be over.
“You can only imagine what kicked in,” Democratic Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard told CNN. “This is a real threat facing Hawaii, so people got this message on their phones and they thought, 15 minutes, we have 15 minutes before me and my family could be dead.”
While Hawaii was the first such incident this year, a similar incident happened in Guam last year at a time when North Korea was threatening to ring the island with “enveloping fire.”
Two radio stations in Guam accidentally broadcast a civil danger warning in the middle of the night just one week after Pyongyang threatened the U.S. territory in an escalating war of words between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un that began with Trump’s now famous “fire and fury” quote.
Unlike conventional warnings, a “civil danger warning” indicates a major threat to a large civilian population, such as a military attack on the island.
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