Japanese apprehension over the North Korean crisis is driving a surge in sales for nuclear and gas survival equipment, according to Reuters.
It is not exactly a popular stampede to the local survivalist superstore, as the items in question are specialty boutique products with hefty price tags. There were only fifty of the “sold-out” air purifiers in stock before sales spiked:
A small company that specializes in building nuclear shelters, generally under people’s houses, 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, also has 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 ($5,630) and one designed for 13 people and usually installed in a family-use shelter costs 1.7 million yen ($15,440).
Another company described in the article reported a “tenfold increase in inquiries and quotes for its underground shelters.” That is not the same thing as actually selling ten times as many, but the dramatically increased level of interest suggests Japanese citizens are thinking about what might happen if the erratic regime in North Korea begins lashing out.
The focus on air purification equipment and shelters impervious to gas is reasonable as North Korea is not yet believed to possess the capability to fire long-range missiles with nuclear warheads, but they can probably manage chemical payloads. Japan’s first-ever civilian missile evacuation drill, conducted in March, seemed to be geared more toward dealing with an errant or intercepted gas warhead than a nuclear strike.
North Korea recently delivered a gruesome reminder that it has an arsenal of chemical weapons and is willing to use them. “There is a possibility that North Korea already has a capability to deliver missiles with sarin as warheads,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned his parliament two weeks ago.
On Monday, Abe said he was in close contact with U.S. President Donald Trump. He told reporters he “appreciated the U.S. leader’s stance of showing that all options are on the table when it comes to dealing with North Korea,” as Channel News Asia puts it.
Two destroyers from Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force are currently conducting joint drills with the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group. A spokesman for the MSDF said the ships were not training to strike any “particular country.”
“The MSDF always looks for opportunities to conduct joint drills with the U.S. Navy, and we consider this good timing,” the spokesman said.
The North Koreans are rather less pleased with the timing. As the Japan Times notes, mouthpieces for the regime in Pyongyang have issued public threats to sink the Vinson. The ironically named North Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee threatened to sink the Japanese archipelago to boot and rain “nuclear hail” down on the U.S. mainland.