Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno speaks to reporters in the Okinawa Prefecture city of Ishigaki, southern Japan, on July 24, 2023. (Kyodo)

Japan is considering setting up an evacuation shelter for residents of the southern island prefecture of Okinawa in case of a potential contingency near Taiwan, which China considers its territory, a source familiar with the matter said Monday.

The Japanese government is likely to step up defensive infrastructure efforts to protect its nationals in the southwestern Nansei island chain, including Okinawa's Miyakojima, where the shelter is expected to be built, the source said.

The plan emerged as the mayors of local municipalities in Okinawa asked Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno during his three-day visit to the prefecture from Saturday to offer central government support by providing funding for shelter infrastructure.

On Monday, one of the prefecture's mayors requested Matsuno, the top government spokesman, fund the expansion of port functions to accommodate large-scale ships and the construction of underground parking lots that could serve as emergency evacuation sites.

Matsuno told reporters in Okinawa, "By closely coordinating with local governments, we will work to make the protection of Japanese nationals in a more effective manner."

Amid the intensifying rivalry between the United States and Communist-ruled China, military tensions have been mounting near Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic island that Beijing views as a province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.