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Japan Moves Up Launch of Anti-terrorism Unit

  • Associated Press

FILE - Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga answers a question from a journalist during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Sept. 30, 2015. Japan has moved up the launch of an anti-terrorism intelligence unit following the deadly attacks in Paris.

FILE - Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga answers a question from a journalist during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Sept. 30, 2015. Japan has moved up the launch of an anti-terrorism intelligence unit following the deadly attacks in Paris.

Japan has moved up the launch of an anti-terrorism intelligence unit following the deadly attacks in Paris, the government said Friday.

The specialized unit will be set up within the Foreign Ministry next week, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

It will involve staff from the foreign and defense ministries, the National Police Agency and the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office, Japan's current equivalent of the U.S. CIA.

Intelligence-gathering staff will be sent to areas susceptible to terrorist activities, including parts of Southeast Asia, the Middle East and northwestern Africa, Suga said.

He cited a "severe safety situation" in the world.

The push to improve anti-terrorism intelligence capabilities has gained urgency as Japan prepares to host a Group of Seven summit next year, and the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

The office, called the Counterterrorism Unit-Japan, originally was to be launched in April, but was moved up because of the Paris attacks, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Intelligence gathering for use in counterterrorism is a new area that Japan needs to concentrate on and add more resources, said Keiichi Ono, director of the Foreign Ministry's management and coordination division.

"There is a growing need to gather intelligence that could affect Japan. Japan cannot remain unelated to any threat of terrorism, even if it's outside the country or not directly affecting us," he said.

About 20 experts will join the unit in Tokyo at the launch, while 20 others will be assigned to Japanese embassies and other overseas posts as intelligence officers, Ono said.

Japan earlier set up an anti-terrorism panel to discuss ways to boost public safety and intelligence after two Japanese were kidnapped and killed by the Islamic State group this year in Syria.

Until then, Japan seldom had been a target of such attacks. But concerns are rising as Japan, a top U.S. ally, seeks a larger international military role under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Ono said the intelligence-gathering staff will not be like those in spy movies.

"We do not plan any activity deemed illegal," he said.

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