Foreign Ministry to boost intel-gathering in Africa

Kyodo

The Foreign Ministry is looking at ways to reinforce intelligence-gathering in Africa following last month’s Algerian hostage crisis that resulted in the deaths of 10 Japanese nationals, ministry sources said Monday.

Japanese companies are calling for better safety assurances for their employees abroad, even as the government maintains its policy of promoting as “promising investment destinations” their entry into African markets.

The new measures are expected to be incorporated into a report by a government panel assessing the hostage crisis that will possibly be ready by next month, according to the sources.

The panel is likely to discuss revising the Self-Defense Forces Law to facilitate efforts to rescue Japanese overseas. For its part, the Foreign Ministry will compile measures in accordance with the real-life situation in Africa, a region marked by political instability and the uneven distribution of mineral resources.

The ministry will place particular emphasis on the security situation in the southern Sahara, including Algeria and neighboring Mali, which Islamist militants are said to be using as their new base, the sources said. The government had not placed much importance on the area, where resources are limited.

Specifically, the ministry will consider increasing the number of defense officials at diplomatic missions for gathering military intelligence and enhancing information-gathering arrangements using personnel fluent in foreign languages such as Arabic and French, the sources said.