The Japanese government is set to compile a plan to evacuate its nationals from South Korea in case escalating tensions between North Korea and the United States lead to a military clash, government sources said Thursday.
Under the first such plan to be shared by all relevant ministries and agencies, Japanese nationals are to be mainly transported via civil aircraft or vessels, and the roles to be played by each ministry will be clarified, the sources said.
The plan still does not take into account support of the U.S. military for evacuating roughly 38,000 Japanese nationals residing in South Korea along with tourists, mainly in and around the capital, which sits close to the military demarcation line dividing the North and the South, possibly leaving a question unanswered about the feasibility of the scheme.
Tensions have been running high on the Korean Peninsula over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs marked by a war of words between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
North Korea has been firing a number of ballistic missiles with some of them flying over Japan and conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September.
The Japanese government has been stepping up preparations to deal with contingencies with North Korea including a drill in April based on a scenario that a missile landed in the country.
In the early stage of evacuation, the Japanese Foreign Ministry will urge its nationals to quickly leave South Korea by civil or chartered aircraft.
The government will prompt those who are still left to move to the southern city of Busan to be first transported to the southwestern Japan island of Tsushima in Nagasaki Prefecture by high-speed vessels and then to one of the main islands by Self-Defense Forces’ helicopters.
The plan will be reviewed by the National Security Council before being finalized.
The government decided to compile the plan given that an existing evacuation manual of the Foreign Ministry is largely a guidance for individuals and that the SDF action plan is confidential in nature.