Attack in Japan sparks alarm over VIP security weeks ahead of G7 summit

By Eimi Yamamitsu, Mayu Sakoda and Tom Bateman

TOKYO (Reuters) – A bomb blast at Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at an election rally on Saturday has raised alarming questions about the state of VIP security, less than a year after a former prime minister was gunned down and weeks before Japan hosts G7 leaders.

Kishida was about to speak at a campaign rally at a fishing port in Wakayama City, western Japan, when a smoking metal cylinder landed a meter away from him.

Kishida was bundled out of the partially enclosed area as police and bystanders overpowered a suspect. Seconds later, the small device exploded. Media said one or two people were slightly injured.

The incident reveals weaknesses in Japan’s security system and a failure to initiate changes after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during an election campaign last year, four experts polled by Reuters said.

Political cartoons about world leaders

“There is no doubt that it was a security failure because the prime minister delivered his speech in the worst possible place where there was no way he could be protected,” said Mitsuru Fukuda, a professor specializing in crisis management terrorism at Nihon University .

“In light of[Abe’s]shooting, the police said their safety plans would be reviewed and revised, but I don’t think they are implementing any of those measures,” he said.

Abe’s killing by a man with a homemade gun has sent shockwaves through Japan, where gun crime is extremely rare, prompting a review of security protocols for politicians who routinely come into close contact with the public.

No motive for the Wakayama blast is known, but it comes at a critical time for Kishida and Japan as they host this week’s Group of Seven ministerial meetings and a summit of leaders in the city of Hiroshima, Kishida’s home constituency, in May.

Fukuda said that at such large, international events, authorities are able to provide solid security by mobilizing a huge police presence. But it’s the smaller, less formal events where weaknesses can be uncovered.

“We are at a tipping point where Japan needs to change its consciousness and security system as the possibility of being targeted increases,” Fakuda said.

The National Police Agency has approved the security plan for the weekend rally in Wakayama, Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Monday.

The government has instructed the authorities to step up security measures and take precautions at gatherings of VIPs, he added.

Kishida is among government officials who admitted security flaws when Abe was gunned down last July.

According to media reports, the suspect in the attack on Saturday was about 10 meters from Kishida.

The prime minister was served a fish delicacy just before the attack, media reported, and news videos showed Kishida looking out onto an outdoor parking lot, with the crowd behind him in a covered enclosure.

In one video, a smoking canister lands and rolls toward Kishida as shouts fill the air. A security agent blocks the device with a bulletproof briefcase and kicks it away while he and other security guards crowd around Kishida and shove him to a parking lot.

After the device was thrown, a bystander grabbed a young man in a headlock while what appeared to be another member of the public grabbed the suspect around the waist as police fanned out and dragged him to the ground, videos showed.

“There is no doubt that this was an extremely dangerous incident,” said Katsuhiko Ikeda, former superintendent general of the Tokyo Police Department.

He said it showed that a review of security plans by the National Police Agency could only go so far.

“A big factor is whether the forces on the ground can make the right decision in all eventualities and have the right sense of crisis,” he said.

Isao Itabashi, chief analyst at the Council for Public Policy Chief, said public appearances by top politicians should be held indoors, with bag checks and metal detectors.

“The biggest problem here was that an explosive device got inside,” he said. “The lessons of Abe’s incident were not applied.”

Initial reports called the blast a smoke bomb, but investigations and a search of the suspect’s home showed he had materials to make pipe bombs, media reported.

One bystander, a fisherman, said the blast injured his back, Asahi newspaper reported. Part of the explosive device was found on a roof 40 meters from where it blew up, public broadcaster NHK reported.

(Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu, Mayu Sakoda, Tom Bateman, Rocky Swift; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim, Robert Birsel)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

Brian Ashcraft is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button