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The government unveiled a five-year plan Tuesday to crack down on drug abuse, targeting mainly minors, including high school students.

The 1998-2002 program was finalized during a meeting of a special government task force headed by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. Hashimoto told members of the task force that the government will carry out the campaign against drug abuse by combining a variety of steps, including measures to boost international cooperation and steps to better educate the public on the dangers of drug use.

The drive comes amid a rapid increase in the use of narcotics among young people, government officials said. The number of junior high and high school students arrested for using stimulant drugs, mainly methamphetamines, hit a record high of 262 nationwide last year, according to the National Police Agency.

In a government survey released in January, about 6.5 percent of the high school students polled said others had tempted them into trying drugs. The survey also found that about 20 percent of the high school pollees believe the decision to take drugs should be left to each individual.

Under the five-year strategy, drug awareness programs will be initiated at elementary, junior high and high schools. On-the-street police guidance targeting minors will also be strengthened, the officials said.

A crackdown on organized crime, including that involving foreigners, will also be boosted in a bid to cut the major distribution routes of illicit drugs.

Pointing out that drugs arriving in Japan have come mainly from China and other foreign countries, the government said it is important for Japan to utilize official development assistance in a way that helps other nations crack down on drug production.

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