(SEOUL, South Korea) — South Koreans and others living there played down North Korea’s warning on Tuesday that foreigners should protect themselves or think about evacuating because nuclear war is imminent.
“Business continues as usual for AMCHAM and its member companies,” said Amy Jackson, president of the American Chamber of Commerce, an association of U.S. companies doing business in South Korea. “We are confident that the U.S. and Korean governments, in close cooperation with other allies, are fully prepared to deal with any situation.”
The British Embassy in Seoul offered a similar appraisal.
“We assess that there is currently no immediate risk,” spokesman Colin Gray said.
But officials in Seoul still believe Pyongyang could test a mid-range missile on the east coast as early as Wednesday, so “preparations are complete,” according to Kim Min-Seok, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.
South Korean officials also pointed out that the North has simultaneously test-launched a long-range missile and several short-range scuds in the past.
Meanwhile, the Japanese Defense Ministry deployed Patriot antimissile batteries, or PAC-3s, to its headquarters in central Tokyo overnight.
The move came one day after Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera ordered his Self-Defense Forces to intercept any North Korean missile if it threatened the country. Tokyo has taken similar steps before previous Pyongyang missile tests, but antimissile batteries have never been activated.
“As the Japanese government, we will take all possible measures to protect the lives and safety of our people,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, vowing to “calmly” cooperate with allies.
Japan has deployed additional PAC-3s to military bases in Saitama and Chiba, near Tokyo, while Aegis destroyers have been moved to the Sea of Japan.
With a range of 1,800 miles, Pyongyang’s medium-range missiles are capable of reaching mainland Japan and the southern island of Okinawa, home to more than half the 47,000 U.S. troops based in the country. Kim Jong Un has specifically threatened to attack U.S. bases in Okinawa, and Guam.
Experts in Seoul, who view Tuesday’s threat from North Korea as more rhetoric, anticipate no direct attack, despite the statement by the North’s Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee: “In case a war breaks out, we do not want foreigners in South Korea to get hurt.”
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