The Japanese government will compile a plan to evacuate its nationals from South Korea in the event that escalating tensions between North Korea and the United States lead to a military clash, government sources said.
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 Thursday.
The plan does not take into account support from the U.S. military for evacuating roughly 38,000 Japanese nationals residing in South Korea along with tourists, located mainly in and around the capital. Seoul sits close to the military demarcation line dividing the North and the South — leaving unanswered questions about the feasibility of the plan.
Tensions have been running high on the Korean Peninsula over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, and have been marked by a war of words between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
North Korea has fired a number of ballistic missiles — some flying over Japan — and conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in September.
The government has been stepping up preparations to deal with contingencies involving North Korea, including a drill in April based on a scenario that a missile landed in Japan.
In the early stage of an evacuation, the Foreign Ministry will urge Japanese nationals to quickly leave South Korea by civil or chartered aircraft.
The government will prompt those who still remain to move to the southern city of Busan, from which they will be transported to the southwestern Japan island of Tsushima in Nagasaki Prefecture by high-speed vessels and then to one of the main islands via Self-Defense Forces helicopters.
The plan will be reviewed by the National Security Council before being finalized.
The government decided to create the new plan because an existing manual at the Foreign Ministry suggests it is up to individuals to make decisions on evacuation, while an SDF action plan is highly confidential and cannot be shared by ministries and agencies.