TOKYO • Japan has decided to halt drills to prepare for a North Korean missile attack after a historic summit between the leaders of the United States and North Korea eased tensions, the Kyodo news agency reported yesterday.
A Cabinet Office official told Reuters that it would make an announcement today concerning the drills.
US President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last week and Mr Kim committed to "work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula", while Mr Trump said he would end what he called "provocative" US-South Korean military exercises.
Japan welcomed the summit as a first step towards the denuclearisation of North Korea, but also said the US-South Korean exercises were a vital deterrent to North Korean threats.
North Korea last year launched two missiles that flew over Japan. It also conducted its sixth nuclear test.
Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said yesterday that Japan and the US needed to keep up their guard against North Korea until the country took steps towards denuclearisation.
"North Korea has yet to show any concrete steps towards denuclearisation," Mr Onodera said in opening remarks ahead of his meeting with US Indo-Pacific military commander Philip Davidson in Tokyo.
US Navy Admiral Davidson was promoted to commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command last month.
He told Mr Onodera yesterday that Washington remained committed to the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of North Korea.
Japan's capital of Tokyo held its first evacuation drill in January and smaller Japanese towns and villages have conducted similar exercises as North Korea pushed ahead with its weapons programmes.
Kyodo said there were plans for evacuation drills this year in nine prefectures.
It said several prefectures had also been notified of the decision to halt the drills.
An official in Yaita, in northern Japan, told Reuters that Tochigi Prefecture, where it is located, had notified the city that the central government had decided to halt the planned drill, "taking into account the international situation".