Saturday, February 17, 2007

US army base in Japan attacked / to stop Cheney's visit

US army base in Japan attacked
February 17, 2007 Agence France-Presse

A JAPANESE extreme left-wing group has claimed responsibility for a small explosion near a US army base outside Tokyo ahead of US Vice President Dick Cheney's visit to Japan.

The Revolutionary Army said in a statement to media organisations that the blast was an "angry blow of an iron hammer" at the US plan to increase troops in Iraq.

"It is an pre-emptive attack to stop Vice President Cheney's visit to Japan," the statement said, attacking moves to strengthen the US-Japan military alliance.

Mr Cheney is scheduled to arrive in Japan next Tuesday on a three-day visit during which he is expected to tour the US naval base in nearby Yokosuka.

The Metropolitan Police Department said they thought the group was a faction of a militant left-wing group called Kakurokyo (The Revolutionary Workers' Council), known for a series of attacks using crude home-made incendiary devices in protest at the US military presence in Iraq.

The explosion occurred near Camp Zama, about 25km west of Tokyo, on Monday, injuring no one and causing no damage.

Police later found two steel cylinders at a nearby park and what was believed to be a fragment of a projectile 430m away.

US television network ABC News had reported that the explosion could have been the first attempt by an al-Qaeda terrorist cell to launch an attack in Japan.

ABC, quoting intelligence sources in Japan and Pakistan, said that Al-Qaeda had established a presence in Japan.

Under the US military realignment plan, which the protesters criticised, the US Army's command and control structure at Camp Zama will be reinforced.

More than 40,000 US troops are stationed across Japan, one of its key military allies.

Japan was a strong supporter of the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and took the landmark step of sending troops to Iraq. Japan's last troops in Iraq returned home in July.

US forces are stationed in Japan under a security alliance forged after World War II, where the Japanese government was forced to renounce its right to a military.