OSAKA - With the Group of Seven leaders’ summit in Mie Prefecture and a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to Hiroshima later next week, security is set to tighten as record numbers of police deploy to streets, train stations, ports and airports throughout the country.
On Thursday, the National Police Agency announced it would send up to 23,000 police officers to the Ise-Shima area, including the island of Kashikojima, where the leaders of Japan, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and the European Union will gather on May 26-27.
The security presence at Chubu Centrair International Airport in Nagoya, the closest international airport to Kashikojima, is expected to be especially heavy. In addition, special units trained to repel drone attacks from land or sea will be employed in various locations, the agency said. The Japan Coast Guard will also tighten its patrols of the area.
For Hiroshima, where Obama will make the first-ever visit by a sitting U.S. president on May 27, up to 4,600 police officers will be dispatched. Obama’s presence is expected to draw large crowds of not only Hiroshima residents but peace activists and others from the rest of the country and abroad.
The combination of the G-7 Ise-Shima summit and the U.S. president’s Hiroshima visit comes after terrorist attacks in Paris last November and in Belgium in March. Both have heightened terrorism fears in Japan during the summit period, especially among the nation’s police forces and government officials.
“What’s most important is that it all proceeds safely and concludes without incident,” Mie Gov. Eikei Suzuki said earlier this month.
For residents and tourists, the security measures may seem excessive, as they mean the removal of trash cans in subway and train stations as far away from the summit venue as Tokyo, and the closure of coin lockers in many cities until the leaders depart.
JR Tokai has already announced that coin lockers at Shinkansen stations in Tokyo, Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya and Kyoto will be closed between Monday and May 27.
Coin lockers in parts of Mie Prefecture, including stations in the city of Ise, home of the Ise Shrine, will be closed from Friday through May 27.
The overall police presence for the summit and Obama’s Hiroshima visit is larger than the two previous summits hosted in Japan. The 2000 G-7 summit in Okinawa saw about 22,000 police deployed and the 2008 summit in Hokkaido had about 21,000 police present.