Police on alert for multiple APEC threats

Nov. 9

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Police have gone on high alert for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum gatherings in Yokohama this week as territorial spats with China and Russia as well as an embarrassing leak of counterterrorism data leave them facing a wide range of threats.

The venue for the meetings, which kicked off Sunday, is adjacent to a residential area that is already giving the police headaches as a potential source of protesters that could range from antiglobalization activists and rightwingers to regular citizens irked by Japan’s territorial rows.

On Monday, police confirmed that a group calling itself “revolutionary army” claimed responsibility for explosions triggered by an object believed to be a timed launching device that was found last Tuesday near a Ground Self-Defense Force camp in Saitama Prefecture. The group said the incident was an attack on APEC.

The group sent a written claim to several news organizations in Tokyo about the event, in which two blasts went off at around 11 p.m. The Saitama Prefectural Police said they believe the event was carried out by an extremist group.

Japan, which is hosting the annual APEC summit for the first time since 1995, has mobilized about 21,000 police officers across the nation for the event.

The National Police Agency said the event will test its mettle. “It’s a gigantic security event that is putting Japanese police to the test,” NPA Commissioner General Takaharu Ando said.

The APEC meetings are taking place at the Pacifico Yokohama convention center in the port city’s Minatomirai district, which is home to about 1,200 companies and 7,000 residents.

Unlike Toyako, the isolated hot spring resort in Hokkaido that played host to the Group of Eight summit in July 2008, police have only managed to set up buffer zones of about “road width” around the venue.

The number of VIPs they will guard comes to about 80, centering on the leaders of the 21 Pacific Rim economies and their foreign and trade ministers, the second-most on record since the state funeral for Emperor Hirohito, known posthumously as Emperor Showa, in 1989.

Since the APEC summit is being scheduled to coincide with the Group of 20 summit opening Thursday in Seoul, with nearly half of the participants attending both, antiglobalization activists may come on an “efficient tour” to both countries to stage protests, a police official said.

There haven’t been any reports so far that big numbers of violent groups from Europe or the United States are coming over, but APEC’s free-trade drive may attract opponents enticed by the trans-Pacific free-trade agreement being negotiated as a path toward a region-wide free-trade zone, the official said.

In addition, Japan’s relations with China have been strained since the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain over collisions with Japan Coast Guard ships near the Senkaku Islands in September. The arrest set off a diplomatic row over the uninhabited chain of isles, which are controlled by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan.

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