The government is studying a plan to evacuate Japanese nationals in South Korea to designated shelters in that country should the United States decide to launch an attack on North Korea, sources close to the government said.
Tokyo hopes to persuade Pyongyang through dialogue to end provocative acts such as the launching of ballistic missiles and nuclear tests, and prevent the situation from developing into an armed conflict. At the same time, the government is considering beefing up measures to protect Japanese nationals in South Korea, and is referring to U.S. evacuation plans to fully prepare itself for an emergency situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Approximately 38,000 Japanese nationals have submitted to the Japanese government residence reports stating that they plan to stay in South Korea for at least three months. In addition, some 19,000 Japanese people are staying in South Korea as short-term visitors, such as tourists.
The Japanese government assumes that the United States would begin operations to evacuate some 200,000 U.S. nationals in South Korea in advance if Washington were to launch a pre-emptive attack on the North. Tokyo is working out a plan to evacuate Japanese nationals in conjunction with the U.S. evacuation scenario.
Specifically, Japan is considering dispatching Self-Defense Force (SDF) planes for such operations if Tokyo can gain consent from Seoul, in addition to using scheduled flights or chartering commercial aircraft.
Japan has sought prior consultation from the United States in the event that Washington launches military operations against the North. As such, attention is focused on the timing of evacuating Japanese nationals.
If North Korea were to launch a pre-emptive attack, the Japanese government would ask Japanese nationals staying in South Korea to take shelter at facilities designated by the South Korean government for that purpose.
Since Incheon Airport and other major airports in northern part of South Korea could be targeted, Japan is considering urging Japanese people to travel south by land and return home by ship in such a contingency.
The government will consider when Japanese people in South Korea would begin to evacuate from northern areas of South Korea while examining information from the United States and other parties.
In working out an evacuation plan, Japanese government sources said Tokyo will take into account Washington's assumption that an attack on the North would be settled after 72 hours.