With rising tensions between North Korea and the United States, Japan’s National Security Council has been discussing how to evacuate nearly 60,000 Japanese citizens from South Korea in the event of a crisis, a Japanese government official said on Friday.
North Korea denounced the United States on Friday for brining “huge nuclear strategic assets” to the Korean peninsula as the U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS CARL VINSON, headed for the region amid concerns of a sixth nuclear test.
Besides commercial ships and planes, Japan would want to send assets from the Japanese Defense Force, such as aircraft and ships to assist in the evacuation if the South Korean government agreed.
The NSC also discussed how to cope with a possible flood of North Korean refugees into Japan, among whom might be North Korean spies and agents, Japanese Media Giant NHK reported.
Tension has risen since the U.S. Navy launched 59 Tomahawk missiles from the USS PORTER and USS ROSS at a Syrian airfield last week in response to a deadly gas attack, raising concerns about President Donald Trump’s plans for North Korea, which has conducted missile and nuclear tests in defiance of United Nation’s and unilateral sanctions.
The United States has warned that its police of “strategic patience” is over.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference on Friday that the government was always collecting and analyzing information about North Korea’s moves but refrained from commenting on details.
“At present, we are in close contact with the United States and South Korea and in addition to urging [the North] to refrain from provocative actions and observe relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, we will take all necessary steps to protect our people’s lives and assets,” Suga stated.
Japan began working on plans to respond to a potential crisis on the Korean peninsula in February, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with President Donald Trump at a summit in the United States.
The attendees called for preparations for a humanitarian response along with tightened security given the possibility that North Korean soldiers could enter Japan pretending to be refugees.
A Japanese ruling party lawmaker and a government source stated that coping with possible North Korean refugees would be among the matters for which Japan had to prepare.
It was also noted that there was concern that any sign of actual preparations for a possible crisis would boost public anxiety.