Sales of nuclear shelters and radiation-blocking air purifiers have surged in Japan in recent weeks as North Korea presses ahead with missile tests.
A small company that specialises in building nuclear shelters has received eight orders in April alone compared with six orders during a typical year.
The company, Oribe Seiki Seisakusho, based in Kobe, western Japan, has also sold out of 50 Swiss-made air purifiers, which are said to keep out radiation and poisonous gas, and is trying to get more, said Nobuko Oribe, the company’s director.
A purifier designed for six people sells for 620,000 yen (£4,390) and one designed for 13 people and usually installed in a family-use shelter costs 1.7 million yen ($15,440).
Concerns about a possible gas attack have grown in Japan after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliament session this month that North Korea may have the capacity to deliver missiles equipped with sarin nerve gas.
“It takes time and money to build a shelter. But all we hear these days, in this tense atmosphere, is that they want one now,” Oribe said. “They ask us to come right away and give them an estimate.”
Another small company, Earth Shift, based in Shizuoka prefecture, has seen a tenfold increase in inquiries and quotes for its underground shelters, Akira Shiga, a sales manager at the company said.
The inquiries began gradually increasing in February and have come from all over Japan, he said.
Kim ups the rhetoric
North Korea said on Sunday it was ready to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, in the latest sign of rising tension in the region.
The United States ordered the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to sail to waters off theKorean peninsula in response to mounting concern over the reclusive state’s nuclear and missile programmes.
In response, North Korea’s tightly-controlled state media claimed America under Donald Trump has gone “seriously mad.”
‘If the US provokes the DPRK even a bit, its army and people will start a great war of justice for national reunification without hesitation.
‘Noting that the U.S. warmongers hysterically try to ignite a war by mobilizing nuclear strategic assets without any measure to deal with the consequences to be entailed.
‘The U.S. has now gone seriously mad. It is mulling frightening the DPRK and achieving something with nuclear strategic bombers, nuclear carriers, etc.
‘However, the army and people of the DPRK will never be browbeaten by such bluffing.’
Also at the weekend, North Korea detained a US citizen as he attempted to leave the country, bringing the total number of Americans held by the isolated country to three
North Korean missiles have fired with increasing frequency. Last month, three fell into waters within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, some 300-350 kilometres off the coast of northern Akita prefecture.
The Japanese government on Friday urged local governments to hold evacuation drills in case of a possible missile attack, heightening a sense of urgency among the public.
Some orders for the shelters were placed by owners of small-sized companies for their employees, and others by families, Oribe said. A nuclear shelter for up to 13 people costs about 25 million yen ($227,210) and takes about four months to build, he said.
The shelter his company offers is a reinforced, air-tight basement with an air purifier that can block radiation as well as poisonous gas. The room is designed to withstand a blast even when a Hiroshima-class nuclear bomb exploded just 660 meters away, Oribe said.
China and Russia’s response
While Japan and South Korea plan military drills with a U.S. fleet in the face of an increasingly hostile North Korea, Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged caution and restraint on a call with Donald Trump.
In a call with President Trump at the weekend, an increasingly worried President Xi called for all sides to show restraint, fearful that the situation could spin out of control.
Russia, meanwhile, has reportedly ordered troops and weapons to be sent to the country’s border with North Korea as tensions continue to escalate.
Unverified video footage appears to show a train, believed to be one of three, loaded with military equipment and headed towards the 11-mile border between Russia and the secretive hermit state.
Another video appears to show military helicopters moving towards the Russian border as well as army combat vehicles moving across rugged terrain.