As a close neighbor, Japan has seen many of its citizens move to South Korea to take advantage of economic opportunities there. As of now, it’s believed that about 38,000 Japanese are long-term residents of South Korea.
At any given time, there could be as many as another 19,000 or so Japanese short-term visitors or tourists on the Korean peninsula.
The Japanese prime minister is concerned about the rising tensions involving North Korea and worries about how to protect Japanese citizens who might get caught up in a dangerous situation.
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.”
Under consideration by the Japanese government is a plan to evacuate its citizens from South Korea in the event the United States decides to launch a first strike against dictator Kim Jong-un’s regime.
The Japanese prime minister has voiced his concerns to Washington and asked that Japan be consulted in advance of U.S. action in order to get its evacuation plan in motion.
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.”
It’s believed Tokyo has a four-tier emergency plan, depending upon the severity of the situation. It could discourage unessential travel to South Korea, it could discourage all travel there, it could urge Japanese citizens to evacuate, and it could advise them to shelter in place.
Japan has been working with the government in Seoul to help with the shelter in place option. The South Koreans have agreed to provide Japanese citizens with access to safe zones, such as designated subway stations, churches and shopping malls. Japanese citizens in South Korea already have information on over 900 such facilities.
In the event that an outbreak of hostilities would lead to airport closures, the best option for Japanese seeking to leave would be to go to the southeastern port city of Busan to leave by sea.
Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) could provide navy vessels to evacuate its citizens, but would need permission from the Seoul government to operate within the country. Lingering memories of the brutal Japanese occupation of Korea during World War II could make that an unlikely scenario.
Concerns about terrorists infiltrating the evacuees have the Japanese government considering special holding areas for processing either in Busan or Japan.
We are looking at a range of responses” to a crisis on the Korean Peninsula, from securing evacuees and processing their entry to creating and operating holding facilities, as well as determining whether Japan is responsible for their protection, Abe had said at a parliamentary session in April.”
Along with much of the rest of Asia and the world, Japan must be holding its breath awaiting the latest provocation from Kim Jong-Un. Given the tough talk coming from the White House and Department of Defense, the possibility of a military confrontation seems to be increasing.
Meanwhile, at the request of the United States, the United Nations Security Council is meeting in an emergency session to determine what diplomatic steps can be taken to avoid an armed conflict.