Those of us, like myself, who grew up during the Cold War era, are very familiar with the situation of having to worry daily about the threat of missile attacks, or even a nuclear holocaust. I never imagined then that one day I would be in Japan and having to worry about it all over again.

The Japanese government’s recent public service announcements on missile attacks advising citizens on what defensive action to take in the event of a missile attack by North Korea remind me of very similar advice given to U.K. citizens from the 1960s on. The most famous of these was dubbed “Duck and cover.” “When you see the flash of an atomic bomb, crawl under a desk and cover your neck with clasped hands!” Other “helpful” advice was to “whitewash the windows,” “build an internal fallout room,” or “hide under the stairs.” After the attack, we were told that if we went outside we should wear stout shoes and a sensible coat.

Seeing in the news daily the awful havoc and destruction wrought on the infrastructure in places such as Syria and Iraq, clearly the suggestion that we take shelter in a strong building is quite ludicrous.

Of course, the government cannot risk panicking the population, but it might be much more honest to admit there is little you can do to protect yourself in such a scenario. Practically speaking, the best advice might be to lie down, say your prayers, and keep your fingers crossed!

Naturally, none of the governments in this region, nor the U.S., are prepared to admit that if they had taken more decisive action even 10 years ago, before North Korea was able to develop more advanced missiles and a nuclear capability, we might not be facing such a big threat now. They also don’t seem to understand that the more pressure you put on their regime, the more and more paranoid they become. A very vicious cycle indeed.


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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