April 18 (UPI) — South Korea criticized Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for not being more careful in his public comments on a potential refugee crisis on the Korean peninsula.
Abe, who had said Monday that Tokyo is looking into policies to cope with an influx of asylum seekers from North Korea to Japan in the event of a conflict, is creating a false impression of the threat level, Seoul’s foreign ministry said, according to News 1.
Abe’s remarks “only lead to misunderstandings and adversely affect peace and stability on the Korean peninsula,” said spokesman Cho Joon-hyuk. “There is a need to refrain from making such comments.”
Cho also said Abe was addressing a hypothetical situation, in which massive numbers of refugees would arrive in Japan along with some North Korean spies.
The spokesman confirmed Japan has requested consultations with Seoul on an evacuation plan.
On Friday, Japan’s national security council had discussed measures to evacuate the 57,000 Japanese nationals in South Korea if war erupts on the peninsula, The Telegraph reported.
Abe also was the target of criticism among Japanese politicians who said the refugee preparations would draw concerns from the public.
Tokyo is seriously troubled by North Korea’s provocations, which have included dozens of ballistic missile tests and two nuclear tests in 2016.
Japan has not been able to intercept projectiles that have fallen in its maritime exclusive economic zone.
Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported Tuesday Tokyo is looking into a plan that would permit its self-defense forces to respond to future North Korea missiles hitting territorial waters.
If the Japanese government opts to reclassify North Korea missile launches into the Sea of Japan as an “imminent threat” and a “military offensive” rather than a test, the army could be mobilized to respond, according to the report.