Police closed in yesterday on farmers and radicals attempting to block the opening Saturday of the new Narita international airport but postponed a direct confrontation when opponents refused to leave their fortresses.
The Japanese government seemed to be hoping for a negotiated settlement to avert another violent encounter at the airport 40 miles from Tokyo, reported Washington Post correspondent William Chapman.
Elsewhere in Japan, police raided about 60 homes to confiscate papers for use as evidence in criminal trials resulting from past confrontations during the 12 years of conflict over construction of the airport. Farmers object to loss of their land and young radicals have joined the battle against it.
Invoking a new law, authorities appeared yesterday at two fortress-like structures occupied by the opponents and read orders forbiding their use because they are within a two-mile radius of the airport grounds.
The opponents shouted angrily at the officials and later emerged to burn posters containing the new orders. Several chained themselves to the fort to express their determination to stay. The 13,000 police and riot squad members mobilized to protect the airport made no move to oust the protesters.
It was disclosed that anti-airport farmers met with Transport Ministry officials Monday night, one of the few discussions so far in the years of conflict that have has taken five lives.