TOKYO, April 14 Japan's National Security
Council discussed how to evacuate its nearly 60,000 citizens
from South Korea in the event of a crisis, a government official
said on Friday, amid rising concern over North Korea's nuclear
North Korea denounced the United States on Friday for
bringing "huge nuclear strategic assets" to the Korean peninsula
as a U.S. aircraft carrier group headed for the region amid
concerns the North may conduct a sixth nuclear test.
Besides commercial ships and planes, Japan would want to
send military aircraft and ships to assist in the evacuation if
the South Korean government agreed, the official, familiar with
the discussion, said. He declined to be identified because of
the sensitivity of the topic.
The NSC, in a meeting on Thursday, also discussed how to
cope with a possible flood of North Korean refugees into Japan,
among whom might be North Korean spies and agents, Japanese
Tension has risen since the U.S. Navy fired 59 Tomahawk
missiles at a Syrian airfield last week in response to a deadly
gas attack, raising concerns about U.S. President Donald Trump's
plans for North Korea, which has conducted missile and nuclear
tests in defiance of UN and unilateral sanctions.
The United States has warned that its policy of "strategic
patience" is over.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news
conference on Friday that the government was always collecting
and analysing information about North Korea's moves but
refrained from commenting on details.
"At present, we are in close contact with the United States
and South Korea and in addition to urging (the North) to refrain
from provocative actions and observe relevant U.N. Security
Council resolutions, we will take all necessary steps to protect
our people's lives and assets," Suga said.
Japan began working on plans to respond to a potential
crisis on the Korean peninsula in February, after Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe met Trump at a summit in the United States, Kyodo
news agency said.
Attendees at a Feb. 23 NSC meeting forecast a crisis on the
Korean peninsula could prompt large numbers of refugees turning
up in boats along the coast of the Sea of Japan, Kyodo said.
The attendees called for preparations for a humanitarian
response along with tightened security given the possibility
that North Korean soldiers could enter Japan pretending to be
refugees, Kyodo said, quoting unidentified government sources.
A Japanese ruling party lawmaker and a government source
told Reuters this week that coping with possible North Korean
refugees would be among the matters for which Japan had to
But they said there was concern that any sign of actual
preparations for a possible crisis would boost public anxiety.
(Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo, Kaori Kaneko, Linda Sieg, Ami
Miyazaki and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Nick Macfie)