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Japan’s government will develop a siren warning system to alert the nation in case of a ballistic missile attack, Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency announced Monday.

Research on the system is to begin April 1, FDMA announced.

The system will depend on information transmitted from a U.S. space-based sensor, according to an FDMA official. A ballistic missile entering Japanese territory should trigger sirens installed in local communities, the agency said.

The FDMA spokesman said that detailed plans were yet to be drawn for how people should react and where they can find shelters.

“We will educate the public on how they should react to the sirens and where they should find shelters, such as solid buildings, but detailed plans will come later after the research and development on the system is done next year,” he said.

The Japanese government Monday set aside $2 million in its fiscal 2005 budget for research expenses for the siren network, called Now Cast System.

“Under the Law to Protect Civilians in the event of an armed attack, the FDMA is responsible to warn municipal governments,” read a statement the agency released Monday. “Meanwhile, local governments are required to alert residents of an attack through their community wireless system. Especially (when) warning against a ballistic missile attack, which requires instant response, it is necessary to develop a system to quickly transmit the information to the public.

“We will begin to develop the system in the coming new fiscal year starting in April,” said Hiroshi Miyawaki, FDMA’s Public Protection Operation Room chief. “It will still be in an experimental stage but if it is proved to be successful, we will gradually introduce the system.”

The Now Cast System lets the agency use a communications satellite to activate community wireless systems to set off local sirens, he said, while faxing the warning at the same time to prefectural governments.

Community wireless systems are installed throughout the country at major cities, areas near U.S. military installations and other important facilities such as power plants. As of December, 66 percent of Japan’s approximately 3,100 municipal governments had the community wireless system, he said.

According to the agency’s plan, information on firing of a ballistic missile targeted at Japan is to be detected by a U.S. space-based sensor and automatically transmitted to a land-based radar. It then is to be then sent to FDMA’s siren command center via the Self-Defense Agency, Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office. The information further will be relayed to a satellite “Super bird,” Miyawaki said, which instantaneously is to activate Interface, the automatic communication system that sounds the sirens.

“The system is not necessary only for a missile attack,” he said.

“To protect the nation from any imminent danger, warning must be given to the public as quickly as possible,” he said, adding that the siren warning system is designed to help the public evacuate to safety.

He said that FDNA has been working on a similar warning system to alert the public of a major earthquake or tsunami.

The route for information flow was slightly different but the system was similar, he said.

“In the experiment of an earthquake, which we conducted in 2003 fiscal year, it took about 20 seconds before sirens went off,” he said.

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