Japanese citizens were jolted early Friday morning when the country’s public broadcaster sent a news bulletin incorrectly reporting North Korea had launched a missile that idly landed in the waters east of the Japanese archipelago as the red-faced network issued an apology explaining the message was part of a media training exercise, a report said.
The false news alert occurred as both the U.S. and its East Asian allies have nervously awaited some kind of action from Pyongyang after the country warned earlier this month of a possible “Christmas gift” for Washington believed to be a possible long-range missile test, Reuters reported.
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The text of the alert – sent at 12:22 a.m. local time – read: "North Korean missile seen as having fallen into seas about 2,000 km east of Hokkaido’s Cape Erimo," the wire service reported.
The alert, which also was delivered to users’ phones through the NHK apps, suggested the missile’s flight path was directly over Japanese territory.
The correction was sent by NHK approximately 30 minutes later, reading: “We apologize to our viewers and the public,” NHK said in a statement on its website. The broadcaster explained the alert was for training purposes. It also said it would review its procedures to prevent a recurrence.
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One of the mandates of the publicly funded broadcaster is to warn citizens about disasters and security, Reuters reported.
In 2017, when North Korea did launch missiles that flew over Cape Erimo in Japan’s far north, warnings spread through sirens and government-issued “J-alerts” on millions of cell phones throughout Japan, jolting some out of sleep, the report said.
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NHK had also sent an erroneous news alert about a North Korean missile in error in January of last year.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had given the United States until the end of the year to propose new concessions in talks over his country’s nuclear arsenal and reducing tensions between the adversaries.
Its last test of an intercontinental ballistic missile was in November 2017 when it fired a Hwasong-15, the largest missile the country has ever tested. Pyongyang said the missile was capable of reaching all of the United States.