Tokyo:  The Japanese government has begun studying measures to respond to an influx of North Korean refugees under contingencies that could occur following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, said government sources.

The central government will hold advance consultations with local governments on the Sea of Japan coast, such as Niigata, Ishikawa and Fukuoka prefectures, to seek their support in accommodating refugees fleeing from the North if the country becomes unstable during the power transition period, they said.

Tokyo is also preparing to cooperate closely with Washington and call for help from the US military in rescuing Japanese living in South Korea if tension escalates on the Korean Peninsula, the sources said. As of October 2009, approximately 28,320 Japanese lived in South Korea.

The Japanese government has so far detected no signs indicating unusual movements in North Korea. Still, Japanese government bodies have started reviewing contingency plans drawn up in 1994 after the death of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, the father of Kim Jong Il.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Monday instructed government officials to make preparations for all contingencies following the news that Kim Jong Il had died of a heart attack two days earlier at age 69.

Japanese government officials have been studying a manual on how to deal with North Korean refugees, compiled in 1996 under the government of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, according to the sources.

The manual says central government entities and local governments will jointly set up headquarters to open shelters for refugees and conduct refugee status determination. Those determined to be refugees will be given the option of staying temporarily in Japan, settling in Japan or departing for a third country.

As for the rescue of Japanese nationals in South Korea, the government will first urge them to voluntarily return home. But it would have to depend on the US military if the security situation on the Korean Peninsula rapidly deteriorated, the sources said.

Japan and the United States have signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in evacuating their nationals from the Korean Peninsula, which says American nationals will take precedence. Tokyo plans to deepen partnership with the US military through such measures as jointly conducting map exercises, they said.

(Agencies)