STA. CRUZ, Laguna, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III on Friday said there was no “imminent threat ” yet to start the evacuation of about 40,000 Filipinos in the tense Korean Peninsula.
But Aquino, speaking in a campaign sortie of Team PNoy candidates at the town plaza here, said he has ordered authorities “to assess whether or not the threat is real and how bad is it.”
In fact, he said Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario will go to South Korea to oversee the preparations being made to evacuate the Filipinos in case war erupts.
“But as of now, we have not received any information saying there is imminent threat that will necessitate evacuation,” Aquino said in Filipino.
The President assured however that contingency plans are in place in case war erupts on the Korean peninsula, pointing out the preparations that have been made by his government when fears of possible war first broke out two years ago.
Unlike before where the Philippines had only one C-130 aircraft to evacuate its citizens, Aquino said the country now has three aircrafts that would hasten the evacuation.
“So right now, we have better capabilities. We have three C130s,” he said.
Aquino said the Philippines has been talking to other nations to assist Manila in case evacuation becomes necessary.
“I’m reasonably confident that the Filipino community organizations working hand-in-hand with the embassy will be able to organize our countrymen in the event that there is a need to evacuate them. And we are talking with other countries also to assist us in this effort,” he said.
But the President reiterated that repatriating Filipinos at this stage remained unnecessary.
“Let us not cause undue alarm,” Aquino said.
Tensions have soared on the Korean peninsula since December, when the North test-launched a long-range rocket. In February, it conducted its third nuclear test and drew fresh UN sanctions.
But incensed at fresh UN sanctions and South Korea-US military drills, it has issued a series of apocalyptic threats of nuclear war in recent weeks.
Early Thursday the army said it had received final approval for military action against the United States, possibly involving nuclear weapons.
On Thursday, North Korea moved a medium-range missile to its east coast as the United States strengthened its Pacific missile defenses amid intensifying threats from Pyongyang.
Apart from its threats of nuclear attack, the North also warned this week it would reopen its mothballed Yongbyon reactor — its source of weapons-grade plutonium that was closed in 2007 under an aid-for-disarmament accord.
Most experts think the North is not yet capable of mounting a nuclear device on a ballistic missile capable of striking US bases or territory.
But the reopening of Yongbyon gives it a way of replenishing its bomb-making material. With Agence France-Presse