TOKYO, March 20, Kyodo -
The Japanese government on Thursday began tightening security
across the country to prevent possible terrorist attacks on Japanese
and American interests as a U.S.-led attack on Iraq began.
The National Police Agency (NPA) set up an emergency terrorism
task force, beefing up security near U.S.-related facilities and
some 650 key infrastructure facilities, including nuclear power
plants and airports.
In the largest security measures ever taken to counter possible
terrorist attacks, the agency also ordered police forces around the
country to tighten security not just at landmark facilities but at
places where people congregate in large numbers.
It also ordered police to work closely with immigration
authorities and reinforce patrols along coastlines to prevent
terrorist incursions, while intensifying exchanges of intelligence
with concerned agencies of other governments.
''We have received no information pointing to a concrete
terrorist threat,'' a police agency official said.
The Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications
Ministry decided to reinforce checks on whether bacteria and viruses
such as anthrax may be attached to or enclosed inside postal mail.
The Metropolitan Police Department on the same day set up a
command office to deal with security threats, deploying 5,000
officers to guard possible targets, including the U.S. military's
Yokota base and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
The Defense Agency said it is prepared to immediately deploy
2,700 troops and antiterrorist equipment such as a chemical
protective vehicle of the Ground Self-Defense Force.
To counter possible attacks on the more than 50 nuclear reactors
operating in the country, the industry minister asked his colleagues
to order police and the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) to guard them.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Takeo Hiranuma told a press
conference that he would ask 16 companies, including power
producers, to strengthen security measures at their facilities.
Accordingly, the Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency issued
measures to energy operators, including gas firms, power firms and
petrochemical industry complex firms, to tighten security.
The JCG decided to increase its alert at nuclear reactors, U.S.
military bases, airports and oil stockpiling bases on the seaside as
well as at ports and harbors, covering some 140 areas nationwide,
using patrol boats and aircraft.
In addition, the coast guard and the Land, Infrastructure and
Transport Ministry's maritime department notified ship owners
associations and marine transport organizations to inform them of
locations of Japanese vessels.
At a separate news conference, Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa
said he has ordered customs officials to check cargo shipments more
carefully to prevent smuggling of firearms and explosives and asked
financial institutions to make sure funds do not make their way into
Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama said the same day that she has
ordered immigration officials to tighten controls to prevent
terrorists from entering Japan and called on authorities to
strengthen patrols at international airports in the country.
Meanwhile, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Chikara Sakaguchi
said the ministry is expediting measures to counter biological and
chemical weapons, although remarking that the possibility of their
use in terrorist attacks in Japan is remote.
Separately, Environment Minister Shunichi Suzuki said his
ministry will beef up controls on chemicals at the National
Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture,
and the National Institute for Minamata Disease in Minamata,
The Foreign Ministry said it has activated its crisis management
office to collect information on the U.S.-led war on Iraq and to
secure the safety of Japanese nationals in Iraq and neighboring
The office, manned by some 60 ministry officials and headed by
Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, will gather information on the
war and will serve as a liaison for other ministries and Japanese
overseas establishments, the ministry said.
Railway firms across the nation have also taken measures to step
up patrols at stations and on railroad tracks.