Japan plans to evacuate citizens from South Korea if crisis hits

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga speaking to media during a news conference after the reports on the launch of a North Korean missile, at the prime minister's office in Tokyo, Japan, on Feb 12, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • Japan's National Security Council discussed how to evacuate its nearly 60,000 citizens from South Korea in the event of a crisis, a government official said yesterday, amid growing fears of a crisis on the Korean peninsula.

Besides commercial ships and planes, Japan would want to send military aircraft and ships to assist in the evacuation if the South Korean government agreed, said the official, who is familiar with the discussion. He declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic.

The council, in a meeting on Thursday, 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 reported.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference yesterday that the government was always collecting and analysing information about North Korea's moves. "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 UN (United Nations) Security Council resolutions, we will take all necessary steps to protect our people's lives and assets," he said.

Japan began working on plans to respond to a potential crisis on the Korean peninsula in February, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met President Donald Trump at a summit in the United States, Kyodo news agency said.

  • 60,000 Number of Japanese citizens in South Korea. The Japanese government wants to use commercial ships and planes, as well as military aircraft and ships, to assist in an evacuation, if necessary.

Attendees at a Feb 23 National Security Council meeting forecast that a crisis on the Korean peninsula could prompt large numbers of refugees turning up in boats along the coast of the Sea of Japan, Kyodo said.

They called for preparations for a humanitarian response along with tightened security, given that North Korean soldiers could enter Japan pretending to be refugees, Kyodo said, quoting unidentified government sources.

A Japanese ruling party lawmaker and a government source said there was concern that any sign of actual preparations for a possible crisis would boost public anxiety. Japan held its first civilian evacuation drill involving a North Korean missile attack last month.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2017, with the headline Japan plans to evacuate citizens from South Korea if crisis hits. Subscribe