For the past year and a half, Japan has gradually been increasing its internal and external intelligence capabilities. It established its own National Security Committee, boosted the role of the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office (CIRO), and has been consulting with the CIA, MI6, as well as Australia`s own ASIS (as revealed by the Australian newspaper earlier this year) in order to (re) establish a foreign intelligence gathering ability on par with those of other democratic partners. While the potential for IS to organise an attack on Japan is more limited than other nations, there potential is still there and given the nature of IS attacks no scenario can be discounted. Japan`s security position, surrounded as it is by potential rivals and less-than-co-operative democratic partners, means that it must invest more heavily in intelligence capabilities to offset the more expensive option of boosting its direct military spending (which has increased in recent years, but which will reach a limit with the onset of drastic social aging). Forewarned might therefore become the byword of Japan`s security position more so than forearmed.
The other issue that caught my interest this week was a report (J) in the Sankei Shimbun on Thursday, which revealed that in October this year, former PM Hatoyama Yukio found himself surrounded by a `horde` of right-wing protest vehicles who proceeded to block Hatoyama`s car from being able to proceed through an intersection and subjected the former PM to barrage of criticism. Anybody who has lived in urban Japan for some time will have encountered these particular vehicles before. They are usually painted all black with nationalist slogans painted on them or hanging off them on placards, with a prominent Imperial chrysanthemum crest attached to the back, and about four of five loudspeakers on the top of them blasting out nationalist music and calling on Japan to `restore the Imperial throne, throw out the US, expel all Chinese and Chosen immigrants` etc.
That they chose former PM Hatoyama is not a surprise, given that he is most known for trying to move US forces out of Okinawa, and establishing a more constructive relationship with China and South Korea, not to mention his visits to the Middle East and Russia to speak directly with leaders whom Western nations might prefer to keep at arm`s length. To the right wing in Japan, Hatoyama is little less than a traitor, and have targeted him for protests in the past. So for around 10 minutes on the 4th of October, Hatoyama was forced to listen to such diatribes until the intersection was cleared by police and Hatoyama`s car allowed to proceed.
The group responsible for this act of intimidation, the Sōmōkukki no Kai, is a far right-wing group that takes its name from a quote attributed to Yoshida Shōin (one of the inspirations behind the Meiji Restoration), and which essentially means `the people rise up`. This group has previously threatened anti-nuclear protestors and made themselves a nuisance to the general population. Their actions against former PM Hatoyama might have been one step too far, however, as their head office was subject to a National Police Agency raid on Thursday and had their propaganda vehicles confiscated.
Political violence in Japan is not a new phenomenon, but the intimidation of a former PM by right-wing protestors is a unique event and one that prompts questions about the security provided for former PMs. Hatoyama has retired from politics hence his personal security is one that he himself is responsible for, but given his political past and recent activities he is a target for protest. Whether this incident ends in any changes to closer protection remains to be seen, but it would be unusual if it didn`t.