TOKYO - A Japanese governor has retracted his call for North Koreans to be "starved to death" if Pyongyang were to target his region with atomic weapons, a local official said Thursday.
Masanori Tanimoto, the head of Ishikawa prefecture, walked back on a suggestion that food supplies to the nuclear-armed North should be cut off it were to lob a missile at a civilian atomic power plant in his region in central Japan.
Tanimoto made the comment during a town hall meeting Wednesday.
"The governor retracted his remark today," an Ishikawa government spokesman told AFP.
"He told reporters that we should respect human lives," he added, referring to Tanimoto.
Chronic food shortages and malnutrition are widespread in North Korea, according to the UN.
The country has also periodically been hit by famine, and hundreds of thousands of people died - estimates range into the millions - in the mid-1990s.
Tanimoto insisted however that efforts to bring about regime change in North Korea must be "effective".
"We need to help create a situation where the regime would collapse from within even though such a situation may impact the people of North Korea," he said Thursday, according to Kyodo News agency.
Municipalities across Japan have been conducting evacuation drills in response to a possible North Korean attack.
Despite international condemnation and sanctions, North Korea has a small nuclear arsenal and is developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that threaten Japan and South Korea - and one day could even hit some US cities.
The North has previously launched missiles that have fallen provocatively close to Japan.