Government aims to compile steps in March to protect Japanese overseas

Kyodo

The government plans to compile measures aimed at protecting Japanese nationals overseas as early as March following the recent terrorism incident in Algeria that resulted in the deaths of 10 Japanese, officials said Tuesday.

“The government must work as one to apply the lessons learned from the incident to ensure that Japanese firms can safely operate overseas and that the precious lives have not been sacrificed in vain,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday at the first meeting of a government panel to examine the Algeria hostage case, in which a total of 37 foreigners were killed.

All 10 Japanese victims of the gas plant attack by Islamic militants were employees of engineering firm JGC Corp.

The panel, headed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, and comprised of Cabinet members and senior officials from the foreign, defense and trade ministries as well as the National Police Agency, will lay out important points that surfaced in the hostage crisis, the officials said.

A group of experts, including representatives from companies with experience working overseas, will then compile a report on how to protect Japanese nationals overseas, which the government will use to come up with concrete measures, the officials said.

Abe said he expects the experts “to consider measures to protect Japanese nationals in the event of a crisis as well as steps to be taken at ordinary times in preparation for terrorism and other incidents.”

Suga said revising the Self-Defense Forces Law to allow the rescue of Japanese in conflicts overseas will be among the issues to be discussed. Currently, the law only authorizes the SDF to transport Japanese nationals by sea or air when safety on the ground is assured.

Suga added that setting up a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council will also be considered after the Algerian crisis demonstrated the need for the prime minister’s office to take the lead in making decisions on national security and foreign affairs.