The attack that delayed the opening of Tokyo's new international airport has provoked new demands that the government curb violence with tough laws, surveillance of extremists, and more heavily armed police forces.
The new get-tough mood emerged in the past two days after Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda and his Cabinet decided that the assault on the airport's control tower Sunday was so destructive that the field cannot be opened for a month.
Members of the Japanese parliament are calling for new legislation to prevent such attacks in the future and Fukuda replied yesterday that his government would take strong measures to preserve law and order. He did not say what those measures would be.
The national police agency, however, disclosed that it is considering arming riot squads with pistols. Justice Minister Mitsuo Setoyama told a parliamentary committee that police should be permitted to take "preventive action" in cases like the well-prepared campaign against the airport.
The mood was exacerbated early yesterday morning by a sudden new outburst of violence near the airport, about 40 miles from downtown Tokyo. A small group burst into one of the hotels serving the airport and flung about 20 fire bombs and smashed windows before escaping in a truck.
The assault strengthened the view of police authorities that the more violent wing of the anti-airport demonstrators is now bent on a prolonged period of disruption.
The police who mopped up the airport area after last weekend's confrontation reported finding a bizarre collection of weapons, including steel "harpoons" wired to high-voltage batteries. They presumably were designed to give off strong electric shocks when hurled against the steel shields carried by riot police.
In one of the fortresses thrown up by the protesters police found large tanks of gasoline and sake bottles apparently intended for use in making firebombs.
In the past, Japanese police have operated under orders to overwhelm demonstrations by sheer numbers and to avoid using weapons or other means of reprisal. Riot police are armed with shields and wooden staves and when dressed in their padded uniforms and face masks they resemble medieval warriors. Their major weapons are water cannons and gas.
The national police agency yesterday established a special committee to present new plans for coping with violent demonstrations and a spokesman said the use of pistols would be considered.
The executive council of Fukuda's Liberal-Democratic Party also began a study of new measures for coping with what its members called radical subversion.
Fukuda, answering questions in parliament yesterday, said that the government may have been lax in handling assaults on law and order in recent years. He expressed regret over the clash Sunday and said the government had to accept responsibility for the violence.
He said the government, will take all possible steps to assure security in the future at the airport, which had been scheduled to open today in a ceremony attended by the prime minister and other high officials.
Sunday's attack come to a climax when six protesters eluded police and siezed the airport control tower long enough to smash up several million dollars worth of air guidance equipment. They had hidden in an underground water-drainage sewer and emerged through a manhole to enter the control tower building. Police admitted yesterday that they had not checked that particular manhole leading to the drainage system because it did not appear on their maps.
The protesters are a varied lot, some of them farmers who objected to having their land taken for the airport and some of them veteran anti-government demonstrators well-drilled in street tactics.
Fukuda told parliament that the airport opponents should not be looked upon as dissident local farmers but as radicals challengingdemocracy.