False “Inbound Missile” Alerts in Hawaii and Japan

On January 13, an emergency alert warning of an incoming ballistic missile was broadcast to Hawaii residents and visitors. The message, which was displayed on cell phones and televisions statewide just before 8:10 a.m., said: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” The false message was sent when the State’s warning system was being tested during a shift change at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. It was based on human error and took 38 minutes to correct.

On January 16, Japanese national broadcaster NHK also sent a false missile alert. The message, received by phone users with the NHK app installed on their devices, read: “NHK news alert. North Korea likely to have launched missile. The government J alert: evacuate inside the building or underground.” NHK corrected the mistake within five minutes and issued an on-air apology. The false alerts in Hawaii and Japan come amid high international tensions over North Korea’s ballistic missile development.