During the April election campaign, an explosive device was hurled into a venue where Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was scheduled to speak. Recently, the National Police Agency (NPA) released its report clarifying the circumstances of this and previous attacks on prime ministers of Japan.
This report highlights once more the utter lack of communication between police and event organizers. Also conspicuous in the report is the uncooperative attitude of vote-obsessed political parties that underscores the incident.
Yasuhiro Tsuyuki, commissioner general of the NPA, responded to the report's release. He said, "This is the second such incident in less than a year. We are taking this very seriously."
The commissioner was referring to the assassination of Shinzo Abe. The former prime minister was shot and killed in July 2022 while campaigning for a parliamentary election. Reflection by the police and organizers on this painful incident was evidently lacking.
On April 15 this year, Prime Minister Kishida was to speak at the Zogasaki fishing port in Wakayama City. Moments before Kishida took the podium, suspect Ryuji Kimura threw a cylindrical object in his direction, which then exploded. The Prime Minister escaped unharmed, but a police officer and a man in his 70s sustained minor injuries.
In a preliminary meeting, the Wakayama Prefectural Police made several security-related requests to the organizers. The police asked that a reception desk be set up in the audience and metal detectors be used.
However, the organizers refused. They reasoned that the audience would be exclusively fishery associates and that they would identify them by face. Furthermore, they claimed that they would not call for widespread attendance.
The organizers also disapproved of the request that the distance between the podium and the front row of the audience be at least 10 meters. They ultimately decided upon a distance of approximately five meters.
Despite the organizers' assurance of a low-key event, the stump speech was announced publically on the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) website. It was also widely publicized across various media.
Ultimately, they failed to prevent the suspect from entering the venue and approaching the Prime Minister. The same security blunder that resulted in Mr Abe's assassination at point-blank range during his speech happened again.
The organizers refused every request made before the event by the prefectural police.
Serious Reflection Required
The police acquiesced and consequently allowed explosives to be brought into the venue. Both parties thus bear considerable responsibility.
"As a politician, I put my life on the line. If something should happen to me, so be it. It is not in my nature to distance myself from my constituents." Such sentiments are not uncommon in the world of politics.
Though they may sound heroic, they do not consider the critical point of the spectators' safety. It is not always the life of a single politician that is lost.
Fortunately, the explosive thrown at Prime Minister Kishida's feet did not fully detonate. However, it would have been a catastrophe if this had been a more skillfully crafted explosive.
As with the NPA, the organizers at the Wakayama Prefectural branch of the LDP should conduct a thorough investigation and disclose the results.
A former and a current prime minister have been attacked in less than a year. This abnormal state of affairs should not be taken lightly.
- Explosion at Political Rally Triggers Evacuation of Prime Minister
- Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Is Shot During a Rally
- EDITORIAL | Explosion Targeting Kishida is Terrorism, an Attack on Democracy
(Read the editorial in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun