The head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority drew fire Friday for a comment he made Thursday saying it would be "far better" for North Korea to launch a missile at Tokyo than at a small nuclear reactor.

"I don't know the level of North Korea's technology but it is far better to drop (a missile) right in the middle of Tokyo (than try to) drop it on a small reactor," NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said at an event in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, which hosts two reactors.

He made the offhand comment when asked by a resident about how the NRA, which is affiliated with the Environment Ministry, would respond to a missile attack from the North.

After the event, Tanaka told reporters the example he had used "was inappropriate."

"Only a peaceful country should use nuclear power. I hope that entering a state of war will definitely be avoided," he said.

On Friday, Environment Minister Koichi Yamamoto chastised the NRA chief.

"Chairman Tanaka has offered an apology, saying that his comment was inappropriate. I want him to be careful with his words and actions from now on," Yamamoto said.

Takahama is home to reactors 3 and 4 at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Takahama nuclear plant. The reactors were recently booted up after passing the stricter safety requirements the NRA drafted in the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.

On Tuesday, North Korea said it tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed within Japan's exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan.

It is the fifth time since last August that a North Korean missile has fallen into the EEZ, which extends some 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the coastline.