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Japan Missile-Alert Panic Triggers Calls to Ramp Up Defenses

  • North Korea launch renews attention on Japan’s missile defense
  • Missile generated sirens, mobile alerts and flashing signs
A broadcast showing file footage of North Korean missile launches after the country fired a missile that flew over northeastern Japan, in Tokyo on Oct. 4.
A broadcast showing file footage of North Korean missile launches after the country fired a missile that flew over northeastern Japan, in Tokyo on Oct. 4.Photographer: Richard A. Brooks/AFP/Getty Images
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After North Korea fired a ballistic missile toward Japan on Tuesday, authorities urged residents to immediately take cover via mobile-phone alerts, warnings on loudspeakers and flashing highway signs.  

But there was one major problem: By the time many people were aware of the alert, the missile had already splashed down in the Pacific Ocean more than 3,000 kilometers (1,870 miles) away. What’s worse, it passed so far overhead -- more than twice the altitude of the International Space Station -- that it posed no threat at all.