Japan needs better system to deal with security threats

Japanese police and Diet security guards conduct joint counterterrorism drills in July.
PHOTO: Nikkei Asian Review

TOKYO - Japan's police are increasingly showing off their counterterrorism capabilities, as if to calm the nerves of the public amid constant news of attacks against innocent civilians around the world.

Realistically, however, Japan needs a more powerful security presence than police officers armed with standard-issue pistols, especially to protect particularly important people and places. But this is not an easy task, partly because of a turf war between the police and the military.

Just a first step

On Sept. 24, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department's emergency response team conducted a training exercise for the news cameras using live ammunition. Creating the team was a step in the right direction, but Japan should consider setting up a nationwide security team that draws its members from both the police and the Self-Defense Forces.

According to the Metropolitan Police, the ERT is a special task force that is on standby 24 hours a day to ensure an immediate response to any terrorist threat. It is commendable that the police are boosting their capabilities in this area. Over the past 12 months, there have been attacks by gun-wielding terrorists in Canada, Europe and elsewhere.

But the police's national counterterrorism effort does not inspire confidence. In most of the recent attacks, the perpetrators were basically amateurs, with just a little weapons training. The bigger threat comes from highly trained special forces, such as those in North Korea.

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