Japan’s response to fatal shooting has attracted global attention

The shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has brought moving condolences from many countries. In contrast, the lack of an international perspective in Japan’s response has been conspicuous.

Symbolic of this is the response of the police authorities. On July 12, the National Police Agency set up a team to examine the security system in place at the time of the attack. In his first press conference after the shooting, NPA Commissioner General Itaru Nakamura said, “We failed to fulfill our responsibility as the police.”

Four days had passed since the incident. It must be said that the NPA’s response was too slow. The shooting took place in full view of the public, and videos taken by people at the scene spread around the world via social media. Many people in Japan and overseas wonder why the attack was not prevented.

Despite this, the NPA has left public explanations up to the Nara prefectural police in charge of the investigation. It lacked awareness that the situation is damaging the image of Japan as a safe country and eroding confidence in the agency.

Abe was attacked in front of a train station in the center of Nara City in a location with 360 degrees of open space around him. The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, approached the scene from behind and opened fire.

The site has been used many times in the past for election campaign speeches. Wasn’t security caught off guard because there had been no trouble in the past? Shouldn’t they have devised some way to protect Abe by placing a large vehicle behind him, for example?

Abe was knocked down by the second shot. It is said to be an ironclad rule that if a gunshot or explosion is heard, security personnel should immediately get the person under guard on the ground. Why was such action not taken this time after the first shot was fired?

Next year, the Group of Seven summit is scheduled to be held in Hiroshima City. It would be a huge loss to the country if foreign dignitaries and others visiting Japan in the future feel uneasy about security here.

During campaigning for the previous House of Councillors election, a man and a woman who heckled Abe during a stump speech were removed by the Hokkaido prefectural police. In response, the Sapporo District Court ordered the Hokkaido government to pay damages for the illegal security measures.

The ruling recognized the freedom of expression of those who yelled, but what about the rights of the audience who wanted to listen to the speech quietly? It is not clear whether the ruling influenced decisions made by Abe’s security team this time, but it is necessary to accurately determine the need for relevant regulations.

Following Abe’s death, U.S. President Joe Biden immediately ordered flags at federal government facilities to be flown at half-mast. India also flew flags at half-mast in various places. However, the Japanese government did so at the Prime Minister’s Office only three days after Abe’s death. It is regrettable that the response was slow.

The government must be aware that Japan’s response to the attack has been attracting attention from the international community.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 13, 2022)