Interview with Kazuhisa Ogawa, military analyst and specially appointed professor at the University of Shizuoka, by Estuko Nagayama
Terrorism cannot be contained by one country alone. It is necessary for the countries of the world to work together to upgrade their counterterrorism measures to the same level. Each country must compare their antiterrorism policies with the international standard to find out what the problems are and what “loopholes” need to be plugged.
Japan is a country where it is hard to obtain firearms and few people have any knowledge about them or are even interested in acquiring such knowledge. Japan needs to be vigilant against knives and cars first. In the random killings that occurred in Akihabara, Tokyo, in 2008, a car first ran into pedestrians, after which a knife was used. Although police officers fought very hard during this incident, they were not able to reduce the casualties. It was not the fault of the Japanese police. They are not used to handling firearms and have too little training in firing weapons.
The second thing to worry about is chemical attacks. The sarin attack against Tokyo subways in March 1995 proved that they are “doable.” However, Japan classified this incident as a “crime by an occult group,” failing to link this to concrete countermeasures against terrorist attacks with chemicals.
Even now, Japan has a minimal stockpile of detoxicants and no auto-injectors for use by personnel wearing unwieldy chemical protection suits. In every sense of the word, Japan’s counterterrorism measures are mostly “pro forma.”
Amendments to the Law on Punishment of Organized Crimes to establish the crime of preparing to commit terrorist acts have passed the House of Representatives. I am worried that the enactment of this law would rather delay further antiterrorism measures. While I do not deny the need for such laws, Japanese people tend to slip into inaction once a law is enacted, using this as an excuse. I have seen many bureaucrats evading responsibility in the past using the law as justification. They might think that “I acted in accordance with the law, so I am not responsible even if many Japanese died.”
What can be done right now is to start with the specifics. Many loopholes can be found if we identify the gaps in the measures to protect people’s lives. At the same time, we also need to think of the order of priority and the necessary legislative measures to make them possible. It is important to proceed in this manner. The media should also look into what is lacking in Japan’s counterterrorism policies and raise concrete issues with the political authorities. Japan cannot change if bureaucrats simply collude with politicians.
Ahead of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020, I would like to call for the creation of a counterterrorism team transcending ministerial boundaries that is capable of responding quickly to the pertinent issues. Even a team of 10-20 members inside the National Security Council will do. A responsive team of experts given the proper legal powers is necessary. (Slightly abridged)