Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Justin McCurry in Osaka

Japan’s PM gives G7 security pledge after pipe bomb attack

Fumio Kishida in Wakayama
Fumio Kishida in Wakayama, on Saturday. A police officer received minor injuries in the attack. Photograph: KYODO/Reuters

Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, has vowed to ensure the safety of politicians and officials attending this year’s round of G7 meetings, days after he escaped unharmed after apparently being targeted in a pipe bomb attack.

The incident on Saturday came as foreign ministers began three days of talks in Japan, this year’s G7 president, that will be followed by other high-level meetings culminating in the leaders’ summit in Hiroshima in May.

The attack was an uncomfortable reminder of last summer’s assassination of Shinzo Abe, and again called into question security arrangements for senior politicians and other dignitaries.

Japan’s environment minister, Akihiro Nishimura, who hosted the G7 climate, energy and environment meeting in the northern city of Sapporo this weekend, said security was noticeably tight.

“My security has become even heavier this morning,” he told reporters at his hotel. “It’s so tight I think it is going to be difficult to go out into the city.”

A police officer received minor injuries in the incident involving Kishida, and a suspect – identified by police as Ryuji Kimura, 24 – was arrested on the spot. Kimura was also carrying a knife when he was arrested, as well as a possible second explosive device he dropped at the scene after being tackled by bystanders and police officers, Kyodo news agency reported.

He was initially confronted by local fishers after he reportedly threw what appeared to be a pipe bomb at Kishida, who was visiting a fishing port in Wakayama, western Japan, to campaign for his party’s candidate in an upcoming lower house byelection.

A 54-year-old fisher told Kyodo he had jumped on the suspect “instinctively” after the device had been thrown, as the suspect was “still doing something with his hands”.

Police believe Kimura was armed with two explosive devices, including the one used in the attack, Kyodo said, citing investigative sources. The device exploded as the suspect was being held on the ground, while bodyguards quickly removed Kishida from the scene.

The fishers said they had been surprised by the lack of security surrounding Kishida.

“I never thought a crime like this would happen in my home town, which is a rather small fishing port,” said Tsutomu Konishi, 41, who had been among about 200 people waiting to listen to Kishida’s speech on Saturday.

“I’m still shocked and stunned. At a time when Japan’s prime minister was visiting, perhaps there should have been a metal detector,” added Konishi, who held on to the suspect’s leg while police officers pulled him to the ground.

Another fisher, Masaki Nishide, said Kimura, who had been carrying a silver-grey rucksack, stood out as most of the people attending the speech were local residents.

“People here all dress like me, and nobody carries a backpack; it was only him,” Nishide said. “If I had been in charge of security, I would have asked for a bag check.”

Abe, too, was addressing voters ahead of an election when he was shot dead with a homemade gun fired at close range outside a railway station in Nara, western Japan, last July. The suspect in Saturday’s incident was also able to get within 10 metres of his apparent target.

The suspect in Abe’s murder, Tetsuya Yamagami, has been charged with murder and several other crimes, including violating Japan’s strict gun-control laws.

An investigation revealed serious flaws in the security arrangements for Abe – Japan’s longest-serving prime minister – but most politicians have continued the tradition of making public speeches and mingling with voters.

Kishida, who resumed campaigning immediately after the incident, said it should not be allowed to derail the democratic process. “A violent act taking place during elections, the bedrock of democracy, can never be tolerated,” he told reporters at his residence on Sunday.

The chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, said police had been instructed to boost G7 security, adding that the government would do everything necessary to ensure that foreign leaders and delegations visiting Hiroshima next month would be kept safe.

Grant Shapps, Britain’s secretary of state for energy security, who attended the Sapporo meeting, said he was confident the leaders’ summit would pass off without incident.

“As politicians, we have to go out and campaign sometimes … it means we have to be exposed to the public,” he told Reuters. “But I am quite sure that in the context of the G7 with our prime minister and other world leaders coming to Japan, we are perfectly safe.”

Police retrieved metal pipes and tools, as well as powder-like substances that could be gunpowder in an eight-hour search of Kimura’s home on Sunday, Kyodo quoted investigative sources as saying.

The motive behind the attack remains unknown, and Kimura has reportedly refused to answer questions until he is accompanied by a lawyer.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.