July 1, 2008

Japan: Security Checks Tightened at Airports Ahead of G8 Summit

Text of report in English by Japan's largest news agency Kyodo

Narita, Japan, July 1 Kyodo - Airlines expanded passport checks for passengers at boarding gates at Narita and other international airports Tuesday for all departures ahead of the July 7-9 Group of Eight summit in Hokkaido.

The action is intended to prevent terrorists or stowaways from using forged or other people's passports to board flights, airline officials said.

Airline staffers spent about five seconds per traveller to cross check identities using passports and air tickets, the officials said.

Earlier, passport checks at boarding gates had been conducted only on US-bound flights operated by Japanese and foreign airlines and on all flights operated by American or US-linked airlines, following the Sept. 11, 2001 hijacking attacks against the United States.

Until Monday, most departing passengers could board flights without undergoing checks at boarding gates if they completed check- ins, security checks and other travel procedures.

At Kansai International Airport, a woman in her 60s on a sightseeing trip to Seoul said she was aware of the tightened security measure and that it might be helpful to maintain public safety.

But a 28-year-old businessman on a business trip to Seoul questioned why he is required to undergo security checks repeatedly.

At Narita International Airport, a 57-year-old museum curator boarding a Taipei-bound flight said the tightening of security measures cannot be helped in a dangerous world where something unthinkable could happen.

Meanwhile, police tightened security in Sapporo, where leaders of various countries, other than G-8 members, are scheduled to stay overnight around the summit at the Lake Toya resort.

On Tuesday, police with dogs searched for suspicious substances around the summit venue, the Windsor Hotel Toya, in the town of Toyako. Police divers went into Lake Toya to check for suspicious objects.

More security cameras have been installed in Hokkaido, with the Sapporo city government increasing their number for the municipal subway network and newly setting them up at water distribution facilities while the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism also installed more than 20 cameras along national highways around the Toyako town.

Hokkaido Railway Co. said it will restrict the use of baggage lockers at stations.

Originally published by Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, in English 0443 1 Jul 08.

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