Japan warned its citizens on Monday against a possible attack in six Southeast Asian countries, urging them to stay away from religious sites.
The Japanese foreign ministry said it had obtained information that “there are increased risks such as suicide bombings.”
This rare warning applies to Japanese citizens in Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar.
None of these countries can be considered a rival or enemy of Japan, and relations between Tokyo and most of them are relatively stable.
Over the past decades, Japan has led a successful diplomatic campaign to bolster its influence in the Southeast Asian region to counter China’s similar assertive strategy through economic cooperation, alternative connectivity initiatives, and security engagements.
This is why Monday’s warning sent shockwaves in several of these nations.
The website of the Japanese embassy in Malaysia issued an alert on Monday morning.
“There is information that there is an increasing possibility that suicide bomb attacks will occur in places where many people gather, such as places of worship,” it said
“We ask all Japanese residents to remain vigilant against terrorist attacks,” it added
The statement asked Japanese residents to avoid visiting places that could be possible targets, including “Western-owned” facilities such as restaurants and hotels.
But many among the other countries mentioned in the Japanese advisory said they were surprised at the announcement and had no knowledge of such a threat or details from Japan as to the source of its information.
Tanee Sangrat, a spokesman for Thailand’s Foreign Ministry, said Japan had not revealed the origin of the warning and that the Japanese Embassy had no further details other than to say it was “not specific to Thailand.”
Thai security agencies have no information of their own about a possible threat, said deputy police spokesman Kissana Pathanacharoen.
Similarly, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said it was not aware of any information about an elevated threat level, while Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah denied that any warning was even sent to Japanese citizens there.
The warning included instructions to Japanese citizens to follow local news closely and use caution “for the time being” without further details.
When asked by AP, Japan’s Foreign Ministry refused to specify whether the information was shared with other countries and also refrained from revealing its source.
According to the foreign ministry, the advisory has been sent to the Japanese embassies in the countries concerned to be directed to Japanese citizens.
Additional reporting by AP