Japan Holds War Drills as North Korea's Kim Jong Un Increases Nuclear Bomb Testing

Elementary school students squat down on the street as they participate in an evacuation drill for local residents based on the scenario that a ballistic missile launched landed in Japanese waters, in Oga, Akita prefecture, Japan, March 17, 2017. Kyodo/Reuters

Japan set off air-raid sirens and evacuated thousands of residents Friday as part of its first ever civilian missile drill amid heightened tensions with North Korea and fears of an attack by Kim Jong Un.

Japan, an ally of the U.S., has been especially concerned about the reclusive, nuclear-armed state after Pyongyang launched four missiles into the sea near northwest Japan a little over a week ago. One of the rockets landed about 124 miles from the fishing town of Oga, where Friday's emergency rehearsals took place in response to any potential ballistic missile strike within Japanese territory. Locals were given survival kits and protective gear and were directed to a number of predesignated locations serving as shelters.

"The missile is seen to have landed within a 20-km (12-mile) boundary west of the Oga peninsula," a voice said from a loudspeaker during the evacuation, according to Reuters. "The government is currently examining the damage."

Japanese authorities ordered the evacuation of the rural, fishing town of Oga as part of a ballistic missile test amid heightened tensions with North Korea, March 17, 2017. Reuters Staff/Reuters

The drill came a day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Japanese officials and discussed the issue of North Korea, which has pursued a nuclear weapons program and has conducted five nuclear tests despite restriction from the U.N. Security Council. Tillerson said the U.S. would need to adopt "a new approach" from earlier efforts to economically sanction Pyongyang over its nuclear program and stressed the need for cooperation between the U.S., Japan and South Korea "in the face of North Korea's dangerous and unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs," The New York Times reported.

Tokyo and North Korea have not established formal relations but have occasionally attempted to hold diplomatic talks. Both countries, along with the U.S., South Korea, China and Russia, have participated in the Six Party Talks, which were launched in 2003 and aimed at halting North Korea's development of nuclear weapons. Increasingly aggressive rhetoric from Pyongyang, however, has prompted a rare militant response from Tokyo, where some lawmakers have argued that a first strike policy was necessary in what they believed to be a deteriorating security situation in the region, according to Reuters.