National

Japan releases steps to protect expats, schools abroad

Kyodo

Japan unveiled on Friday a set of measures to safeguard the 1.2 million or so Japanese living abroad, including a big increase in security guards and cameras at 88 overseas schools catering to Japanese students.

In the wake of the Islamic State hostage crisis, which cost the lives of two Japanese men, the government will also start sending expatriates urgent bulletins about terrorism and other contingencies, as well as inquiries about their safety, via a cellphone text messaging service, the Foreign Ministry said.

Speaking at a news conference, Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Kazuyuki Nakane said the government will strengthen safety measures at schools for Japanese students soon after receiving specific requests from each of them.

Of the 88, eight are in the Middle East, a ministry official said.

The government will offer the short message service for 800,000 Japanese residents in the United States and 10 Asian countries by mid-March, Nakane said.

The intent of the service is to disseminate security-related information and provide a way to confirm the safety of expats.

The 10 Asian countries include Australia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

The government will also launch a similar service to cover the other 400,000 Japanese residing in other parts of the world as soon as possible, Nakane said.

Among other measures, the government will organize crisis management seminars in five locations including London, Paris and Melbourne by late March, expanding on similar programs conducted for Japanese expats in the Middle East and North Africa.

The government will also make the Foreign Ministry’s “Overseas Safety HP” website available on smartphone by late March to allow Japanese travelers to check the latest safety information anywhere and anytime.

Along with these short-term steps, the government will consider medium- and long-term safety measures to protect expatriates and tourists, Nakane said.

The move came after Islamic State, an extremist group that has taken over much of Iraq and Syria, said it would target Japanese nationals worldwide for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to offer $200 million in nonlethal aid to Middle East countries contending with the group.

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