Tokyo tightens security for slain Shinzo Abe’s funeral

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s state funeral for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday is under the spotlight as authorities seek to avoid the kind of security blunders exposed in his assassination in July.

Abe was shot from close range by a man with a homemade gun while on the campaign trail in the western city of Nara, an act that shocked a nation where violent crime is rare and dignitaries tend to travel with only modest protection.

Japanese authorities – including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida – have acknowledged security flaws contributed to Abe’s death. With scores of foreign VIPs among those attending the funeral at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan, they do not appear to be taking any chances.

Here is what we know about the security plans:

  • Roads around the venue will be closed for the event, which begins at 2 p.m. (0500GMT), while airspace will be restricted within 25 nautical miles (46 km, 29 miles) of the site from Monday to Wednesday.
  • From 10 a.m. (0100 GMT) on Tuesday, the public will be invited to lay flowers at designated stands near the venue. Their baggage will be inspected and they may be required to go through metal detectors, according to a government advisory.
  • Japan is implementing maximum-scale security, as tens of thousands of police officers, including about 2,500 brought to the capital from across Japan, are being deployed to boost security in Tokyo, local media reported. Officers and sniffer dogs have been ramping up anti-terrorism patrols at major rail stations and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport in recent days, according to the reports.
  • Police are patrolling expressways for any suspicious objects, and check around embassies and hotels where foreign guests will be, the reports said.
  • Around 700 foreign guests will be flying in for the event, including around 50 current or former leaders.
  • VIPs are to include U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, prime ministers Anthony Albanese of Australia, Narendra Modi of India and Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc and European Council President Charles Michel. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancelled his planned attendance to focus on responding to a powerful storm.
  • More than 1,000 Japanese military personnel will be deployed for the ceremony with 4,300 guests expected. An honour guard will fire 19 blank rounds from a cannon to salute Abe and a military band will perform.
  • The government plans to spend 1.65 billion yen ($11.5 million) on the funeral, including 800 million yen on security and 600 million yen to host foreign delegations. The high cost has partly fuelled a public backlash against the taxpayer-funded funeral at a time of economic hardship for many.

($1 = 143.3200 yen)

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Additional reporting by Kantaro Komiya; Editing by John Geddie and William Mallard)

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