Japan boosts embassy security after ISIS threat

Japan has ordered beefed-up security at its embassies worldwide, including the one in Jakarta (above).
Japan has ordered beefed-up security at its embassies worldwide, including the one in Jakarta (above). PHOTO: AFP

Diplomatic missions in Indonesia, Malaysia and Bosnia among targets listed by militants

TOKYO • Japan has ordered security to be beefed up at its embassies worldwide, a top official said yesterday, after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group highlighted its missions in Indonesia, Malaysia and Bosnia as part of a broader threat.

The move comes about eight months after ISIS claimed to have beheaded two Japanese hostages in Syria and amid anxiety at home over impending legislation that critics fear could drag the officially pacifist country into wars overseas.

In its Dabiq online magazine's latest issue, ISIS issued a threat against 70 "crusader nations" and "apostate armies".

"What, for example, prevents (a jihadi) from targeting... communities in Dearborn, Michigan, Los Angeles, and New York City? Or targeting Panamanian diplomatic missions in Jakarta, Doha, and Dubai? Or targeting Japanese diplomatic missions in Bosnia, Malaysia and Indonesia? Or targeting Saudi diplomats in Tirana, Albania, Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Pristina, Kosovo?" it said.

Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said in Tokyo yesterday that security would be ramped up at Japan's nearly 200 diplomatic missions around the world.

Japan has long avoided involvement in Middle East conflicts and has rarely been affected by religious extremism.

"We are aware of the (threat) and, in cooperation with host countries, are tightening security," he said.

He did not elaborate on what measures were being undertaken.

Ms Erika Nakano, a spokesman for the Japanese embassy in Jakarta, said the heavily fortified building already has "very tight security" and business was going on as usual.

"We are okay and we have a good relationship with the Jakarta police - that's all I can tell you," she said.

Japan's Parliament is expected to pass legislation next week that will expand the role of its military, and possibly put troops into combat for the first time since the end of World War II.

However, there is no suggestion that Japan has any immediate plan to get involved in the military campaign against ISIS. The changes to a pacifist Constitution have sparked large protests in the country.

Japan has long avoided involvement in Middle East conflicts and has rarely been affected by religious extremism. But in a video released in January, ISIS militants said they had beheaded war correspondent Kenji Goto, a week after they claimed responsibility for the death of his friend Haruna Yukawa.

The killings of the two men came after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged US$200 million (S$283 million) in aid for refugees fleeing militant-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq. Militants had demanded the same sum in exchange for the release of the pair, whom they had been holding for months.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2015, with the headline 'Japan boosts embassy security after ISIS threat'. Print Edition | Subscribe