Japan’s media points to Korean in shrine blast

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Japan’s media points to Korean in shrine blast

A Korean man was indicated as a suspect related to an explosion that occurred last week at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japanese media reported Thursday.

The Mainichi Shimbun reported that a man who appeared to be in his 30s was captured by CCTV in front of the restroom at the shrine, where the blast happened on Nov. 23, and immediately departed for Korea after the incident.

At around 10 a.m. on Nov. 23 - a national holiday in Japan - an explosion occurred inside the men’s restroom at the Yasukuni Shrine, which caused a small fire that damaged the ceiling and walls. There were no casualties.

Japanese media reported after the incident that police suspected foul play and that batteries and wiring that may have been part of an explosive device were found at the scene.

The Yasukuni Shrine is controversial because it honors Japan’s war dead, including 14 Class-A war criminals, and is considered a symbol of the country’s militarism.

A man wearing glasses and dark clothes and carrying a backpack and a bag was caught on CCTV footage procured by Tokyo police around 30 minutes before the explosion, according to Kyodo News on Thursday, citing police sources.

He was reportedly seen heading toward the restroom where the blast occurred.

It added that through security camera footage taken in the neighborhood, police traced the man as he left the shrine and walked in the direction of Kudanshita Station to a nearby hotel.

The suspect was determined to be a guest at a hotel in Chiyoda, where the shrine is located, according to reports, and left to Korea shortly afterward.

Four metal pipes that contained a granular substance, possibly gunpowder, were found in a square hole in the stall ceiling, according to Kyodo. A digital timer with a wire lead attached to a battery case was also found on the stall floor with batteries scattered about.

Korean writing was reported to be found on an item found in the bathroom stall.

However, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department officially said Thursday that the reports have not yet been confirmed.

“Our government has been paying attention to the reports. However, the suspect has not currently been identified,” Cho June-hyuck, the spokesman for the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a briefing.

The Korean government will continue to watch over the investigation by Japanese authorities, he continued.

“We have not yet officially received an investigation report or request for cooperation from the Japanese government.”

In response to a reporter’s question on what will happen if Japan asks for cooperation in the police investigation, the spokesman replied, “While we cannot predict what will happen in the future, if such a request is made, we will review it in accordance with related authorities’ regulations and procedures, as is the practice.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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