Japanese broadcaster accidentally issues missile warning

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Japanese broadcaster NHK mistakenly issued a warning Tuesday that told people to seek shelter, claiming that North Korea was believed to have launched a missile. The alert was retracted a short time later.

The incident happened at 6:55 p.m. local time on Tuesday when NHK sent out an alert through its mobile app and website, stating that the J-Alert warning system had been activated. It urged residents to take cover in a sturdy building or underground shelter.

The alert caused some confusion but there were no reports of widespread panic. A missile warning would normally be accompanied by the activation of outdoor sirens and the interruption of radio and TV channels, neither of which happened.

About 5 minutes later, at 7 p.m., the national broadcaster issued a second message to inform people that the warning was issued in error. NHK apologized later on Tuesday and said an employee had made a mistake while working on a system that sends out breaking news alerts.

“We are deeply sorry,” an NHK presenter said on TV, bowing in apology.

The incident comes just days after an employee mistakenly triggered a missile attack warning in the U.S. state of Hawaii, causing widespread panic as people sought shelter. It took 39 minutes to cancel the alert, which was sent to cell phones as well as radio and TV stations.

Last year, the J-Alert warning system was activated twice when North Korea fired ballistic missiles that flew over northern Japan. Sirens were activated and residents in large parts of northern Japan were urged to seek shelter, but the warnings were canceled once the missiles safely passed over Japan.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have been high since early 2017, fueled by North Korea’s frequent missile tests and its advancing nuclear weapons program, as well as U.S. military exercises and threatening statements by President Donald Trump.

Recent talks between North and South Korea have allowed tensions to ease ahead of the Winter Olympics.

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