After Violent Attack on PM in Crowded Place, Audience Safety to be ‘Given More Weight’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People evacuate from a venue where Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had been about to give a campaign speech after an explosion there on April 15 in Wakayama City.

Monday marked one month since an explosive device was thrown in the direction of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as he was about to give a campaign speech in Wakayama City. The Wakayama prefectural police have been investigating whether there were any defects in their security and guarding operations at that time.

Audience evacuation is one of the issues to be considered. A source close to the police said, “Audience evacuation will be given further weight in the guarding of VIPs.”

Since the incident, the prefectural police have been interviewing security guards who were at the scene and individuals related to the Wakayama prefectural chapter of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which organized the prime minister’s campaign speech.

Koichi Tani, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, pointed out three areas to be addressed at a press conference on April 27: (1) security and guarding operations, (2) coordination with organizers, and (3) audience evacuation.

The incident occurred at a fishing port in Wakayama on April 15. Ryuji Kimura, 24, unemployed, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of forcible obstruction of business by throwing an explosive device.

In the 51 seconds between the throwing of the device and its detonation, there was almost no call for the audience to evacuate, and the police delayed in ensuring the safety of the 200 people who had gathered at the campaign speech venue.

The prefectural police have not released details of the security and guarding operations on that day, but dozens of police officers are said to have been assigned to ensure the safety of the audience.

As to whether a security plan made in advance included audience evacuation guidance, a senior prefectural police official said, “I am not in a position to give an answer,” while another senior police official in the Kinki region said, “Generally, we were not asked to specify audience evacuation steps in security plans.”

A senior police official in another prefecture commented on the fact that only two people suffered minor injuries in the incident and said, “We should think it is fortunate that the damage was small, and the audience should have been strongly urged to evacuate.”

“In addition to ensuring the safety of VIPs and capturing suspects, which are top priorities, I think audience evacuation guidance will be decided in detail at the planning stage,” the official added.

The prefectural police are also looking into issues such as why bag inspections had not been conducted at the scene.