In Japan Tokyo's new international airport, Narita, has been officially declared open with a small heavily-guarded ceremony attended by only one Cabinet minister.
In Japan Tokyo's new international airport, Narita, has been officially declared open with a small heavily-guarded ceremony attended by only one Cabinet minister. Since work on the airport began 12 years ago, five deaths and more than 8,000 injured have resulted from clashes between protest groups, who oppose the airport, and police and security forces. But even while the airport was opened on Saturday (20 May) riot police guarding the area were attacked by radical protestors.
SYNOPSIS: Narita airport, designed to relieve the congestion at the other Tokyo airport, Haneda, was opened by Japan's Transportation Minister Mr. Kenji Fukunaga. It was a small ceremony at which Shinto priests in traditional dress, waved white paper wands in the emptiness of the new terminal building to ward off any evil spirits at the 2.6 billion dollar airport, an object of hate to thousands of Japanese leftists.
Transportation Minister Fukunaga was the only cabinet member to attend the ceremony because violence by thousands of extremists was expected.
Narita airport will take international traffic leaving. Haneda for domestic flights. Security for the opening was tight. Sewer man-holes were guarded but still an underground cable linking Tokyo'central air control system to a radar site was found cut. The damaged cable resulted in all domestic flights being cancelled and intranational flights had to be guided by emergency radios.
The most violent of the anti-airport organisations, Chukaku, claimed responsibility, for cutting the cable and outside the airport launched an attack of petrol bombs or riot police. Police officials said about 40 red helmeted extremist opponents of the airport threw about 75 molotov cocktails at riot police, who were part of a force of 14,000 guarding the airport.
Police reported that four protesters were arrested and more than 25 unused petrol bombs were confiscated.
As police began to gain control most of he attackers fled, leaving behind a trial of burning petrol bombs.
Narita airport which has been opposed by many Japanese since work first began on it 12 years ago, is being boycotted by two major international airlines-Pan American and british airways-until they are satisfied with security arrangements. However the first Japan Air Lines plane to land, arrived safely. Passengers seemed unruffled by the trouble that has marred the airport for so long. Forecasts have stated that 20 million people could be using the airport by 1985. Airport officials say it has every modern facility available and there would be no immediate problems with handling so many passengers.
But there has been trouble ever since 1966. Local farmers, in danger of being dispossessed, led the opposition. They have been joined by radical students and other anti-government forces and it is these groups that have led to the strictest security. And observers say tight policing may have to continue if the airport is to remain open.