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Saturday, July 9, 2005

U.K. attacks trigger official fears that Japan is next


Staff writer

Thursday's deadly terrorist bombings in London raised fresh concerns among Tokyo officials Friday that Japan might be the next target due to its support for the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

News photo
JR Tokyo station's police presence is boosted Friday as security precautions were upgraded after the deadly terrorist bombings in London the previous day.

These concerns were aired as officials stepped up security for public transport systems and at other key locations nationwide.

An Islamic group with al-Qaeda links has claimed responsibility for the London bombings, saying on its Web site that the explosions represented retaliation for Britain's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Japan is among the targets of terrorists," Justice Minister Chieko Noono told reporters, adding the government would adopt stricter immigration measures and monitor the presence of foreigners visiting Japan illegally, especially travelers from Britain.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told a separate news conference that the government would do its utmost to gather information on terrorists and try to prevent them from entering the country, and try to ensure the safety of Japanese overseas.

"The government needs to take all possible measures" to ensure the safety of its people, Hosoda said, adding that extra precautions are needed because Japan could also come under terrorist attack.

National Public Safety Commission Chairman Yoshitaka Murata and transport minister Kazuo Kitagawa separately pledged to double their vigilance to ensure the security of public transportation networks and other key installations.

Defense Agency chief Yoshinori Ono meanwhile vowed to help eradicate terrorism in the international community. "We will take a stern attitude in a bid to combat terrorism. We should not flinch when we face terrorism," Ono told reporters.

Measures to be taken also include intensifying sea patrols by the Japan Coast Guard and the Maritime Self-Defense Force, tightening immigration scrutiny and increasing guards at crowded venues, including the ongoing World Exposition in Aichi Prefecture, Ono said.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, now in Gleneagles, Scotland, for the ongoing Group of Eight summit, said Japan would not bow to terrorism and would bolster antiterrorist steps at home.

"We will have to continue our fight against terrorism, and not give in," Koizumi told Japanese reporters traveling with him Thursday night.

Counterterrorism experts, however, pointed out that Japan is way behind global standards in terms of repelling international terrorists such as the al-Qaeda network.

"If a similar terrorist attack takes place in Tokyo, it is likely that the government will be thrown into chaos," said Makoto Asari, president of Tokyo-based Crisis Intelligence Co., a crisis-management consultancy.

Asari noted that although the Defense Agency and National Police Agency have special forces to fight terrorists, the government does not have an integrated body to make use of them.

The government should set up an integrated crisis team that can gather information, negotiate and work out responses to terrorist attacks on Japanese soil, Asari said.

Nobuhiko Suto, a Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker and an expert on crisis management, said the government has striven to fight terrorists since the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system, but more is needed.

Sudo said, "The government needs to organize a department specifically to address terrorism, including analyzing terrorist groups, training experts and dispatching officials to gather intelligence."

Information from Kyodo added

No injuries reported

The Japanese government has received no reports of any Japanese hurt in Thursday's bombings in London, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said Friday.

"We have so far not received any information indicating (Japanese) casualties," Hosoda told reporters.



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