The Yomiuri Shimbun OSAKA — Security is being ramped up in Osaka and tension is gradually building ahead of next week’s Group of 20 summit meeting, with restrictions on traffic, station lockers and drones steadily being phased in.
The National Police Agency announced Thursday that up to 32,000 police officers will provide security across Osaka during the meeting of leaders from 20 major economies on June 28 and 29. Police officers and units from across Japan will be dispatched to Osaka to assist security operations.
Thirty-seven nations, territories and international organizations will participate in the G20 summit, and a combined total of about 30,000 officials are expected to descend on Osaka for the meeting.
The agency will establish a special security office headed by the agency’s commissioner general on Thursday. In addition to about 12,000 officers from the Osaka prefectural police, personnel from prefectural police forces across Japan will be dispatched to Osaka to support security operations by guarding dignitaries and important officials and enforcing antiterrorism measures.
The police personnel poured into this summit will be the most ever for an international event in the period since the Tokyo Summit in 1993, eclipsing the 25,000 personnel dispatched for the 1995 meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Osaka. Police officers have already been stationed at Intex Osaka, the main venue for the summit in Suminoe Ward, and to areas near hotels where leaders and other officials will stay. They are patrolling these areas and conducting inspections.
Takahisa Ishida, chief of the Osaka prefectural police, has urged residents to be accepting of traffic restrictions put in place during the summit. These restrictions will be imposed mainly in Osaka and include 10 routes on the Hanshin Expressway network from Thursday to June 30. “To minimize the impact on society and the economy as much as possible, the most important thing is to reduce the volume of traffic on the roads,” Ishida said at a press conference Thursday.
Ishida also touched on the recent incident in which a police officer in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, was attacked and had his gun stolen, saying: “I have instructed all police personnel to be even more vigilant. I want them to stay sharp and thoroughly conduct their security duties.”
Station lockers unavailable
West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) announced Thursday that coin lockers at Osaka Station and other major stations would no longer be available for storing items. People will be able to retrieve items already stored in the lockers until Sunday, but all lockers will be completely unusable from Monday until June 29.
Notices explaining these security precautions in English, Chinese, Korean and other languages have been placed on about 2,000 lockers in Osaka Station. Unused lockers were locked shut.
Sophisticated security cameras have also been installed near the stations’ ticket gates. The cameras will enable authorities to confirm suspicious people’s movements into and out of these stations.
Drones must stay grounded
The prefectural police are nervous about the illegal operation of drones during the G20 summit.
The Osaka prefectural government enacted a temporary ordinance that prohibited flying drones near Intex Osaka, but there has been a spate of cases in which people caught flying drones said they were unaware of the ordinance. The police, wary of the possibility that drones could be used for a terrorist attack, are warning people not to fly drones at all near the summit venues.
On Tuesday afternoon, a man in his 30s was caught flying a drone weighing about 300 grams near Intex Osaka. When questioned by police, the man reportedly said, “I had no idea flying my drone was prohibited by an ordinance.”
On the afternoon of June 13, a man in his 60s and a man in his 30s also were caught flying drones near the summit venue. Both claimed they did not know about the ordinance.
Flying drones in densely built-up areas, except for small drones, is banned in principle by the Civil Aeronautics Law. However, the prefecture has implemented the temporary ordinance to ban the flying of all drones near summit venues and certain other locations. Between May 29 and June 30, flying drones, including those weighing under 200 grams, is prohibited in places such as the man-made island of Sakishima, where Intex Osaka is located; within 300 meters of the island; Kansai International Airport; and within about 1 kilometer of the airport.
Fears of an attack by drone are not unfounded. In April 2015, a drone carrying radioactive material landed on the roof of the Prime Minister’s Office. In Venezuela, drones carrying explosives blew up in midair while the president delivered a speech in August 2018.
As part of security measures for the G20 summit, the police have deployed “drone-jamming guns.” This equipment contains sensors that pinpoint the drone’s location by detecting the electronic signals it gives off, and also transmits radio waves that jam the drone’s control signals and render it inoperable. Several of these “guns” will be deployed at Intex Osaka and near hotels where prominent officials will stay.
“Of course, we are worried that drones could be used for a terrorist attack, but there also are fears a drone could crash,” a senior official of the Osaka prefectural police said. “We’ll make sure the no-fly rule is thoroughly enforced.”