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Okinawa security balanced with promoting local tourism

Date Posted: 2005-04-07

Okinawa wants to be known as ‘convention island’.

That dream falls in Governor Keiichi Inamine’s hands, and he is pushing to make it real. This week the International Development Bank is hosting its worldwide conference at the Okinawa Convention Center, drawing several thousand participants.

Much goes into making a successful convention, and now there’s focus on security. Many police and security specialists are necessary to protect not only the dignitaries, but the rank and file visitors as well. “We set up a provisional section last year,” says one Okinawa Prefecture Police official, “and began planning to handle everything from car accidents to terrorism security.”

The unit has 800 personnel which can be called into play depending on situations. Those individuals would be drawn from local metropolitan police departments as well as the Prefecture Police. More than 23,000 police were involved in the 2000 G-8 Summit, and last year’s grand opening of the National Theater Okinawa required 4,000 security people.

Officials note that Kyushu has 1,900 police in its special security unit, but that any large convention can require upwards of 20,000 guards. They say it is a difficult task to provide adequate security without disrupting the event itself, or frightening the delegates and tourists. Okinawa officials say they have good plans, and will keep everyone safe while keeping everyone happy.

They say it takes more than 5,000 security personnel to adequately protect VIPs coming to Okinawa though, and they don’t have those numbers. “We try to doour best for security with a minimum number of police,” one official notes, but “a general accident would be difficult if anything happened. We would take care as best we can. That’s what we’ve been planning for.”
Police underscore Okinawa’s unique situation, where unlike mainland Japan and other countries, things are more calm. They say their assets and resources should be capable of doing the job, and they know they can draw upon local agencies for further assistance if needed.

They also praise volunteer groups and resident watch groups as being a great help.

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