Evacuation of Japanese Nationals: Take All Possible Steps to Prepare for Worsening Situation

It is the responsibility of the state to protect the lives and property of its citizens. The government must take all possible measures to ensure the safety of Japanese residents overseas and support their evacuation.

As the situation surrounding Israel and Palestine grows increasingly tense, the government has begun to support the departure of Japanese nationals who are staying in the region.

First, a chartered flight was arranged to transport eight Japanese nationals from Israel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). At the end of last week, a Self-Defense Forces plane flew a total of 83 people, including 60 Japanese and 18 South Koreans, from Israel to Tokyo.

The Defense Ministry has another two SDF planes on standby in Jordan for future transports.

Commercial flights between Israel and Japan still operate twice a week. However, many have already been cancelled, and the future of Japanese flights is uncertain. It is reasonable for the government to have implemented contingency measures for transportation.

However, the ¥30,000 fare charged for the chartered flight invited dissatisfaction. The government should consider in advance how to respond to the operation of chartered flights in an emergency.

Transporting Japanese nationals overseas in emergency situations is intrinsic to the SDF’s mission.

However, when the Afghanistan capital of Kabul fell to the Islamist group the Taliban in 2021, the dispatch of SDF aircraft was delayed as internal government coordination took time.

Based on this mistake, the government eased the criteria for transporting Japanese nationals, which had been limited to cases where “safe implementation was possible.”

Although transporting Japanese nationals in times of conflict is a difficult mission, it is hoped the SDF will carry it out smoothly.

There are still about 800 Japanese nationals in Israel. A small number, including staff members of international organizations, are also staying in the Palestinian territory of Gaza that is effectively controlled by the Islamist group Hamas.

The Israeli military is planning a full-scale ground operation, and the situation is unpredictable. It is important for the government to keep abreast of the latest developments and maintain close contact with Japanese residents in the region.

Japan and South Korea cooperated in the recent evacuation operation. South Korea dispatched a military transport plane ahead of Japan and carried 51 Japanese nationals to Seoul, along with South Koreans and others. Japan subsequently also carried South Koreans who requested transport on the SDF aircraft.

The improving relations between Japan and South Korea following the summit of the leaders of the two nations this spring certainly led to this mutual cooperation.

The government is promoting economic cooperation with Israel. At the same time, it has been supporting economic independence for Palestinians, particularly in the agricultural sector. Japan needs to work to ease tension by taking advantage of its position of being able to have a dialogue with both sides.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 25, 2023)