National / Politics

Four governors urge Tokyo to protect their prefectures from latest North Korean missile threat

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Alarmed by North Korea’s threat to launch ballistic missiles at Guam, the governors of four prefectures petitioned the central government Monday to strengthen efforts to protect residents from missile debris and other life-threatening contingencies.

The governors of Shimane, Hiroshima, Kochi and Ehime met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the vice ministers of the foreign and defense ministries to request “an utmost effort” to ensure their residents’ safety.

Pyongyang’s latest threat is “egregious” and “intolerable,” Abe said at the start of his meeting with the four. “The government’s biggest responsibility is to protect the lives of our citizens, and to this end, we will do whatever we can,” Abe told them, emphasizing Tokyo will maintain a high level of cooperation with Washington and Seoul.

In an announcement that ratcheted up its nuclear threats to a new level, the North said last week that it will test-fire four intermediate range missiles by targeting the U.S. territory of Guam by mid-August. The missiles, it said, will likely pass over Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi prefectures.

“We have been singled out by the North,” Shimane Gov. Zenbe Mizoguchi told reporters after meeting with Vice Foreign Minister Masahisa Sato. The tests “would be a grave act of provocation that defies the U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Mizoguchi added. “There are worries of contingencies, too, and I believe tensions are unprecedentedly high.”

Although Pyongyang’s announcement did not mention Ehime, the prefecture took part in the petition because there is a high chance it will cross the missiles’ anticipated trajectory.

The four-point petition urged Tokyo to step up cooperation with the international community to stop Pyongyang from making further provocations. It also requested the central government share any information it has on the launch — including its estimated timing — with the four prefectures.

Moreover, it asked for Tokyo’s “continued effort to strengthen its vigilance and defense system” as well as demanding the government take “every possible measure” should the launch result in any casualties.

Pyongyang’s latest threat put Japan on high alert, prompting Tokyo to deploy a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor battery to each of the four prefectures.

“We didn’t want to do anything that would leave our residents overly worried, but Pyongyang’s announcement has made this petition necessary,” Hiroshima Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki said.