TOKYO - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed Tuesday to prevent terrorism at home and make Japan the world's safest country as a new unit was launched to collect and analyse information on global attacks.
The beheading of two Japanese earlier this year, claimed by the Islamic State group, and the death of 10 others in a hostage crisis in Algeria in 2013 have highlighted the vulnerability of Japanese people abroad.
The country is also making a point of showing that it is increasing security as it prepares to host the next G7 summit in May as well as the summer Olympics in 2020.
"We will strongly push preventive measures against terrorism," Abe told a meeting of ministers.
"I would like you to do your best to make Japan the safest country in the world." Abe added: "With the summit and Olympics ahead, our country must take all possible measures with a sense of crisis."
The unit is made up of about 20 personnel in Tokyo with about another 20 based in Japanese diplomatic missions abroad and concentrated on four areas: Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and North and West Africa.
Koichi Oizumi, a professor at Japan's Aomori Chuo Gakuin University and an expert on international terrorism, called its geographical limitations a weakness.
"Collecting information is a first step but analysing it is a different story," Oizumi told AFP, adding that Japan is weak at intelligence, threat assessment in particular.
"It is no surprise if Japan can be a target of terrorism in the case of major events such as the G7 and the Olympics," he added.
"Now, terrorism can happen anywhere around the world." Japan has taken other steps in recent years to upgrade its intelligence-gathering capability, including launching satellites to monitor North Korea, which has carried out nuclear tests and routinely threatens Japan.