National

Plants and bugs: Japanese government pulls out all the stops to prevent leak ahead of era announcement

JIJI

The government is making every effort to keep information on the new Imperial era name secret until its announcement Monday and officials are even checking plants inside the Prime Minister’s Office for possible bugging devices.

“It is also my duty to carry out events related to the Imperial succession smoothly,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a speech Saturday in Yokohama. “We’ll move forward (preparations) steadily so Japanese people will celebrate the succession.”

The new era name proposals are kept in a safe at the Cabinet Secretariat.

The government will present them to members of a panel of experts at a meeting from 9:30 a.m. Monday, followed by a hearing with the speaker and vice speaker of the Lower House and the president and vice president of the Upper House.

After discussions by all Cabinet ministers, the government will formally adopt the new era name at a Cabinet meeting, and Suga will announce the decision at a news conference starting at around 11:30 a.m.

The government will ask members of the expert panel, parliamentary leaders and Cabinet ministers not to bring any recording devices, including smartphones, into the rooms where the new era name will be presented and not to leave there before the announcement.

The government plans to check the belongings of panel members before they enter the Prime Minister’s Office and have government personnel escort them to restrooms so they will not make any contact with outsiders.

“There is a strained atmosphere in the Prime Minister’s Office,” one government official said. If the new era name is leaked to the media beforehand, the government plans to replace it.

The government initially considered conducting a hearing with the parliamentary leaders at a room in the National Diet Building, but Lower House Vice Speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu from the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan objected because it meant they would be effectively placed in custody.

It was eventually decided that the hearing will take place at the official residence of the Lower House speaker from 10:20 a.m. The parliamentary leaders will stay at the residence “voluntarily” until the era name is announced.

The government is taking every possible step to keep the new era name confidential, but with the wide range of electronic devices used for communications and bugging available, top officials are likely to remain apprehensive over the possibility of a leak until the last minute before the announcement.