TOKYO — Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was evacuated uninjured Saturday after someone threw an explosive device in his direction as he campaigned in a fishing port in western Japan.
Video of the incident showed smoke filling the air as police wrestled a suspect to the ground and screaming bystanders scrambled to get away from the scene in Saikazaki Port in western Wakayama Prefecture. No one was hurt.
The chaotic scenes resembled those nine months ago when former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated on a campaign tour.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference that the suspect who threw the device at Kishida had been arrested on charges of “obstruction of business by force.”
Matsuno said the government would wait for results from the police investigation before commenting on a potential motive from the suspect.
“Elections are the foundation of democracy, and violent acts such as this are absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “I have instructed the National Police Agency they do their utmost to ensure the protection of VIPs.”
Japanese prime minister evacuated after explosion rocks campaign eventApril 15, 202301:27
There were no signs of combustion in the device, public broadcaster NHK reported, adding that Kishida was escorted to a vehicle by security.
The prime minister had just finished sampling some food at the port, and was about 65 feet from where the incident occurred, the broadcaster said.
Kishida later apologized for the incident.
“Police are investigating the details of the loud explosive sound at the previous speech venue,” he said when he resumed his campaign speeches, in video broadcast by NHK. “I am sorry for causing many people to be concerned. We are in the middle of an important election for our country. We must carry this on together.”
The incident came around nine months after Kishida’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, was assassinated during a campaign event in the western city of Nara, near Kyoto.
Japanese prosecutors charged Tetsuya Yamagami with Abe's in murder in January. Yamagami was arrested immediately after allegedly shooting Abe with a handmade gun as the former leader was making a speech.
Matsuno told Reuters that police had been instructed to boost security, and that the government will do what is necessary to ensure security at the upcoming Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima next month.
Japan's foreign ministry said after the incident on Saturday, there would be no change to the security plan for a G7 foreign ministers' meeting starting on Sunday in the resort city of Karuizawa.
Arata Yamamoto reported from Tokyo and Dennis Romero from San Diego.