World

Japan discusses plans to evacuate 60,000 citizens

TOKYO: Japan's National Security Council (NSC) discussed how to evacuate its nearly 60,000 citizens from South Korea in the event of a crisis, a government official said yesterday amid rising concern over North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

Besides commercial ships and planes, Japan would want to send military aircraft and ships to assist in the evacuation if South Korea agreed, the official, familiar with the discussion, said. He declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic.

The NSC also discussed how to cope with a possible flood of North Korean refugees into Japan, among whom might be spies and agents, Japanese media reported.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference yesterday that the government was always collecting and analysing information about North Korea but refrained from giving details.

"We are in close contact with the US and South Korea and in addition to urging (North Korea) to refrain from provocative actions and observe relevant UN Security Council resolutions, we will take all necessary steps to protect our people's lives and assets," Mr Suga said.

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 news agency said.

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 prepare.

But they said there was concern that any sign of actual preparations for a possible crisis would boost public anxiety. 
- REUTERS

JapanSouth KoreaNorth Korea