The Foreign Ministry is studying ways of evacuating Japanese nationals in South Korea amid a tense standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program, a ministry spokesman said Wednesday.

Hatsuhisa Takashima, press secretary to the Foreign Ministry, said the ministry is currently considering plans of this kind.

“How to evacuate Japanese in an event of emergency is the most important issue for the ministry and the government,” Takashima told a news conference. “But plans concerning a possible contingency on the Korean Peninsula have yet to be discussed with the U.S. and South Korea.”

He added that Tokyo and Washington are holding talks on how to rescue Japanese residing in or visiting South Korea in accordance with the updated 1997 bilateral defense cooperation guidelines.

According to these guidelines, the two would cooperate to evacuate Japanese and American civilians to safe locations via U.S. military and Self-Defense Forces aircraft and vessels.

Takashima’s remarks come in the wake of media reports that evacuation plans are being deliberated within the government.

Earlier this month, North Korea announced it was withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, amid allegations that it is developing a nuclear weapons program.

Pyongyang has since been urged to rescind its decision, with Japan, South Korea and the U.S. striving to seek a peaceful solution to the crisis.

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