Despite the taunt, most experts consider an al-Qaeda strike on Japan unlikely, due to the nation's tight immigration policies and stepped-up anti-terrorism efforts. At greater risk are Japanese abroad. "Embassies are hiring extra security," says Shinsuke Shimizu, director of the Foreign Ministry's International Counter-terrorism Cooperation division, "and Japanese residents in Southeast Asia are making contingency plans." The Japanese government has even distributed animated videotapes to expat Japanese with advice on how to survive a kidnapping or hijacking. Bin Laden has given Japan something it has happily lacked since World War II: an enemy.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi wants to boost his nation's international profile. The latest audio-tape message attributed to Osama bin Laden shows he may have succeeded: the al-Qaeda leader named Japan—which has pledged $5 billion in aid to Iraq and is preparing to send troops in December—as one of six U.S. allies targeted for future terrorist attacks. It is the first time al-Qaeda has said Japan is in its sights.