Missile Shelters Planned for Small Islands Near Taiwan; Facilities Intended to Protect Okinawa Residents

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Yonaguni Island is seen in Okinawa Prefecture in March 2023.

The Japanese government plans to build underground evacuation shelters capable of accommodating residents for about two weeks in times of emergency in remote island municipalities that conduct joint exercises for civil protection, it has been learned.

The plan is one of the main pillars of the government’s draft policy and one of the main pillars of technical guidelines for the development of evacuation shelters.

The draft policy stipulates that the government will establish “specified temporary evacuation shelters” in municipalities that meet the following two requirements: (1) a remote island municipality where means of transportation to evacuate residents from the island are limited to planes and ships and; (2) a municipality that has compiled a plan to evacuate all residents from the island and conducts joint exercises for civil protection with the central and prefectural governments.

With the increasing possibility of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan in mind, the draft policy mainly targets municipalities in the Sakishima Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. The islands include the town of Yonaguni on Yonaguni Island, about 110 kilometers from Taiwan, and the city of Ishigaki, mainly on Ishigaki Island.

The envisaged underground shelters will be built by each municipality with financial support from the central government. They will be constructed in the basements of public and official facilities based on the assumption that the shelters will be used by municipal officials in charge of evacuating residents and residents who do not escape their island in time. In peacetime, the shelters will be used as meeting rooms and parking lots, or for other purposes.

To make the shelters strong enough to withstand blasts from missiles, the draft guidelines state that the doors of the shelters must open outward and that the outer walls must be made of reinforced concrete no less than 30 centimeters thick. It also calls for preparing three liters of drinking water per day for each person. The government will release the draft policy and guidelines shortly.