National

Tokyo Metro won't halt service over North Korean missiles without government alert

Kyodo

Tokyo Metro said Tuesday it has decided not to halt train services in response to media reports of ballistic missile launches by North Korea, just days after the subway operator was criticized for doing so.

The company, part of Tokyo’s subway system, stopped all of its trains for about 10 minutes from 6:07 a.m. on Saturday following reports of Pyongyang test-firing a ballistic missile. The test ended in failure.

It was the first time that Tokyo Metro suspended operations in the wake of a missile launch. The suspension affected around 13,000 people.

The subway operator decided in mid-April to stop its trains whenever it was reported that a missile that could potentially reach Japanese soil had been launched.

Tokyo Metro said it has now changed the rule, saying that it will halt services only after the government’s J-Alert emergency advisory system is activated.

The nationwide system provides rapid alerts from the central government to municipal authorities to facilitate speedy evacuations and other actions in the event of a disaster.

On Saturday, a J-Alert waning was not issued, but part of the Hokuriku Shinkansen running along the Sea of Japan coast also stopped for about 10 minutes, according to operator West Japan Railway Co.

Such moves by the train operators have been criticized as an overreaction, though tensions between North Korea and the United States have escalated, sparking concern that Pyongyang could fire missiles at Japan.

“It was an excessive reaction that the subway trains were stopped in Tokyo,” a 46-year-old third-generation Korean resident of Japan said. “The problem is the Japanese government and public administrations have fanned fears too much.”

The Hawaii-based U.S. Pacific Command said North Korea’s latest missile launch took place in South Pyeongan Province, north of Pyongyang, at 5:33 a.m. Saturday, but the missile “did not leave North Korean territory.”

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