TOKYO — As tensions on the Korean Peninsula reach new heights with Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test, Japan is planning for a possible mass evacuation of the nearly 60,000 Japanese citizens currently living in or visiting South Korea.
“There is a possibility of further provocations,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a Monday meeting with ruling coalition lawmakers. “We need to remain extremely vigilant and do everything we can to ensure the safety of our people.”
In response to North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, Japan and the U.S. seek to ratchet up economic pressure on the rogue state through an oil embargo and other measures. But U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis on Sunday also said any threat to the U.S. or its allies “will be met with a massive military response — a response both effective and overwhelming.”
There are currently about 38,000 long-term Japanese residents in South Korea, as well as another 19,000 or so tourists and other short-term travelers. “If the
U.S. decided on a military strike against the North, the Japanese government would start moving toward an evacuation on its own accord regardless of whether the American plans are public,” a Japanese government source said.
Tokyo is working on a four-tier emergency plan based on the severity of the situation: discouraging unessential travel to South Korea, discouraging all travel to South Korea, urging Japanese citizens there to evacuate, and finally, urging them to shelter in place.
Should skirmishes erupt between the two Koreas, for example, the Japanese government would discourage all new travel to South Korea. At the same time, it would urge citizens already there to evacuate using commercial flights… (read more)