It’s crackdown season — but isn’t it always?
Security police have carried out raids on three covert bases allegedly linked to the “non-mainstream” faction of Kakurōkyō, the far-left group with a history of mortar attacks on US military facilities over the past 15 years.
Police searched three sites in Tokyo, Yokohama and Ichikawa City, Chiba, on February 23rd, arresting six male and female activists in their sixties on suspicion of violently resisting the raids. The arrests may include the commander of the faction’s secret “revolutionary army”, which is accused of other recent attacks.
The searches were carried out on suspected Kimoto-ha (Sekisaisha-ha) locations over Swords and Firearms Control Law violations in connection with a 2013 paramilitary attack on Yokota Air Base in west Tokyo.
The November 28th incident saw two mortar shells launched at the United States Air Force base in Fussa. One of the shells landed in the base and the faction claimed responsibility a few days later. Police announced that a shell of the kind used by the faction was found at one of the sites raided, along with gunpowder, indicating it was being used as for manufacturing arms.
As we head towards May’s G7 Summit in Ise-shima, security policy are raising the pressure on established far-left groups, leading to a string of recent raids and arrests, most prominently on Chūkaku-ha and associated groups. The Kimoto-ha faction of Kakurōkyō has made provocative statements about “smashing the summit” and authorities are no doubt anxious to avoid a repeat of 1986, a year in which numerous small “guerrilla” incidents raised tensions in the capital during and surrounding the G7 Summit.
Ironically, the most famous incident from the 1986 summit — allegedly carried out by Chūkaku-ha activists on Akasaka Palace — still reverberates today. The three activists continue to challenge the court rulings and profess their innocence, as covered regularly by the Chūkaku-ha twice-weekly organ.
The Kakurōkyō’s Revolutionary Army unit also claims it carried out an attack on a construction company in Kawaguchi, Saitama, in October 2014. In April 2015, it also allegedly launched a mortar attack on Camp Zama. However, until now security police had not announced overt moves to tackle this faction of Kakurōkyō, in spite of its presentation in the media as a viable threat.
How seriously should we take Kakurōkyō as a menace to proceedings when May rolls round? Well, in terms of established New Left groups in Japan, it probably is the most credible threat, for what that’s worth. But then these are men and women old enough to collect pensions and, while they are alleged to have caused deaths in past years, have been mostly preoccupied by internal conflict over the previous two decades, and whose recent mortar attacks are largely performative.
With the summit this year and then the Olympics in 2020, we are potentially seeing a replay of what happened in the late 1980s, when the 1986 Summit, 1988 Seoul Olympics and then changeover in emperor triggered heightened security fears in Japan, which were proved not wholly unjustified by the guerrilla responses of domestic groups and even the return to Japanese shores of members of the Japanese Red Army and the Yodogō hijackers.