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Japan to step up security measures, issue warnings

  • 2015-02-03 15:00:00
  • , Nikkei
  • Translation

(Nikkei: February 3, 2015 – p. 3)

 

 With the country still in a state of shock after the brutal killing of Japanese hostages, the Japanese government is scrambling to strengthen anti-terrorism measures, such as increasing security at key facilities and offering more effective warnings.

 

 “The government will put in every effort to ensure the safety of Japanese citizens,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at an emergency meeting on Monday. Islamic State militants claimed the beheading of the second hostage in a video released early Sunday morning Japan time.

 

 The National Policy Agency dispatched additional forces around the prime minister’s office to prepare for emergencies in the heart of Tokyo or at government offices. Patrolling around Haneda International Airport has been stepped up for suspicious people or objects. And the agency has increased security at diplomatic posts of the U.S., Jordan and other countries that are part of the international coalition fighting Islamic State.

 

 The government is also considering heightening security measures in and around public transportation facilities, such as airports and railroads, power plants, U.S. military bases and Self-Defense Force sites. It may also deploy additional special units, armed with submachine guns and rifles that guard Japan’s nuclear facilities around the clock.

 

 The Ministry of Justice will launch a 20-person department under the Immigration Bureau in October to analyze information on foreign nationals. The department will compile profiles for immigration officers to use in screening incoming travelers for potential terrorists and other suspicious persons.

 

 The government has not confirmed the existence inside Japan of terrorist networks or assistance groups linked to Islamic State, according to the agency.

 

 Roughly 1.26 million Japanese were living abroad as of October 2013, with about 10,000 of them in the Middle East. The number of people traveling abroad is also increasing. The Foreign Ministry provides Japanese nationals with travel information, and issues warnings for particularly dangerous zones. While it had been calling on all nationals to evacuate Syria since 2011 — the most serious of the four warning levels — Haruna Yukawa and journalist Kenji Goto were captured and killed in the region.

 

 During a meeting Monday, some Liberal Democratic Party members raised the possibility of amending legislation to make those warnings legally binding. But the official government stance is that it cannot restrict travel by Japanese citizens, since it is a right spelled out in the country’s constitution.

 

 At airports across Japan on Monday, Ministry of Justice officials began posting signs listing countries citizens should avoid, including Syria.

 

 The recent hostage crisis was the first since the launch of the National Security Council. But the Foreign Ministry and the police “sometimes relayed information directly to the prime minister’s office, rather than through the NSC,” according to a government official. (Translated by Nikkei/edited by MATT)

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