Japan issues false alarm over missile launch

Japanese public broadcaster NHK issued a false alarm on Tuesday saying North Korea appeared to have launched a missile and urging people to take shelter, but it managed to correct the error within minutes.

The mistake took place at a tense time in the region following North Korea's largest nuclear test to date in September and its claim in November that it had successfully tested a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach all of the US mainland.

Pyongyang regularly threatens to destroy Japan and the United States.

But there were no immediate reports of panic or other disruptions following the NHK report. A similar gaffe caused panic in the US state of Hawaii at the weekend.

NHK's 6.55pm alert on its web site said: "North Korea appears to have launched a missile...The government urges people to take shelter inside buildings or underground."

The same alert was sent to mobile phone users of NHK's online news distribution service.

In five minutes, the broadcaster put out another message on the website correcting itself and said no government warning, called "J-alert", had been issued.

"This happened because equipment to send a news flash onto the Internet had been incorrectly operated. We are deeply sorry," an NHK announcer said on its 9pm news programme, bowing 

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