Japan's prime minister targeted by explosive device

Right now, campaigns are underway for local elections nationwide in Japan.

Japan's prime minister targeted by explosive device
A man, believed to be a suspect who threw a pipe-like object near Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during his outdoor speech, is held by police officers at Saikazaki fishing port in Wakayama, Japan, April 15, 2023. Kyodo via REUTERS

The backstory: Last year, the world was shocked when Japan's longest-serving (former) prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was shot dead in broad daylight. In response, the police were slammed for not having better security measures. An investigation later found flaws in Abe's protection, leading to the resignation of the national police chief. So now, with that in the backdrop and the upcoming G7 summit next month in Hiroshima, people are on edge about security.

More recently: Right now, campaigns are underway for local elections nationwide. The current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has made some strides on several fronts. For example, he's been improving relations with Ukraine and South Korea, which has won him a lot of support. It's also fueled rumors that he may call for a general election soon if everything goes well at the by-elections and G7 summit.

The development: On Saturday, there was an explosion during one of Kishida's speeches at an outdoor venue in Wakayama. He was safely evacuated, and no injuries were reported. In footage released by local media NHK, people were seen running away while what appears to be police officers held down a man after the blast. Photos also showed a silver cylinder thought to have been thrown toward Kishida.

According to the local news agency Kyodo, a source close to the investigation said a 24-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of throwing what looked like a smoke bomb toward the prime minister before his speech. Some also speculated that it could have been a pipe bomb. The man's motive for the attack remains unclear at this time.

Key comments:

"Such an act of violence on the core of democracy is absolutely unforgivable," said Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to reporters in Tokyo on Sunday. "It's vital that we see the election through to its conclusion."

"I was stunned. My heart is still beating fast." said a witness at the scene to NHK.

"That something like this happened in the middle of an election campaign that constitutes the foundation of democracy is regrettable. It's an unforgivable atrocity," said Hiroshi Moriyama, a member of Kishida's Liberal Democratic Party.
"Continuing with his campaign speeches will be well received by voters," said Shigenobu Tamura, a political analyst who had previously worked for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party led by Kishida. "They will appreciate him continuing with his duties regardless of what might happen to him."