The recent hostage incident, in which Japanese citizens are believed to have been held and killed by the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has posed a serious challenge to the government regarding how to protect Japanese nationals from international terrorism.
While the government has tightened security at Japanese embassies and other facilities around the world, it also plans to strengthen measures to prevent terrorists from entering Japan.
Terror alert crosses continents
"We feel the greatest sorrow and profound grief that the lives of the two Japanese nationals were lost. As a government, we will continue to take all possible measures against terrorism and to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals abroad."
With the recent hostage incident in mind, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke at the House of Councillors Budget Committee on Monday, emphasizing that the government would make every possible effort to ensure the safety of Japanese citizens at home and abroad.
In response, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida announced the same day a plan to form a study team - chaired by Kazuyuki Nakane, a parliamentary vice foreign minister - within the Foreign Ministry to discuss safety measures for Japanese nationals living overseas or traveling abroad.
Since the hostage incident came to light on Jan. 20, the government has instructed all Japanese diplomatic missions overseas to share security information and strengthen patrols around Japanese schools, while raising alert levels. As ISIL warned of terrorist attacks targeting Japanese citizens in a video released Sunday, the government again instructed them to thoroughly implement these measures.
Amid such circumstances, the Japanese Embassy in Jordan assembled a security measures liaison council gathering officials from Japanese companies and Japanese schools in countries neighbouring Syria, where the hostage incident took place, and urged them to remain vigilant. The Japanese Embassy in Turkey also sent an alert e-mail to Japanese nationals living in the country.
As of October 2013, there were 303 Japanese citizens in Jordan and 1,851 in Turkey.
However, as ISIL made threats in the video saying, "This knife ... will also carry on and cause carnage wherever your people are found," the government has extended its full alert for terrorist attacks not only across the Middle East and Africa, where extremist groups sympathetic to ISIL are most active, but also in the United States, Europe and Asia.
ISIL employs a strategy of sending messages all over the world in multiple languages via the Internet, and having individuals commit terrorist attacks in their own countries.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said, "The statement by ISIL of 'wherever your people are found' is not just a bluff," and the government has shown an increasing sense of caution.