Japan airport operators step up security, but analysts warn of vulnerabilities



After at least 34 people died in bomb attacks in Brussels on Tuesday, operators of major international airports in Japan tightened security and some passengers taking flights to Europe expressed unease about what happened.

“We urged security personnel this morning to beef up patrols around the airport in light of yesterday’s case,” a spokeswoman of Tokyo International Air Terminal Corp., the operator of the international terminal at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, told The Japan Times on Wednesday.

Keisuke Hamatani, a spokesman for New Kansai International Airport Co., the operator of Osaka’s main airport, said the firm has instructed security guards to heighten vigilance for suspicious individuals and objects.

At Narita airport near Tokyo, security officials stepped up searches for suspicious items on Tuesday, said a spokesman for the operator, Narita International Airport Corp.

The spokesman said the airport uses surveillance cameras to monitor incoming vehicles and has other assets that include an explosives detection system and bomb-sniffing dogs.

All three airport operators underscored that they already operate at a heightened level of security and therefore do not plan to introduce fresh measures at the moment.

However, one security expert pointed out that existing controls may be too little to thwart attacks like the one in the departures hall of Brussels Airport.

“It’s difficult to prevent this type of attack on the spot, which took place near the airline check-in counters,” said Takenori Mikasa, a counterterrorism expert at NTT DATA Institute of Management Consulting, Inc.

As this space is located outside the security checkpoints security staff cannot necessarily intercept explosives, Mikasa said.

He said while there is nothing much that can be done to guard against such attacks, boosting the number of security personnel would be worthwhile. A more visible presence, he said, could deter would-be terrorists.

“If individuals turn and run away upon seeing uniformed officers, police could catch them for questioning,” he said.

However, considering the level of terrorist threat in Japan, which he views as low due to its geographic location and lack of home-grown militants, what is more important is to gather intelligence on terrorists, Mikasa said.

“Eliminating terrorism beforehand is more crucial,” he said. “If that doesn’t work well, it would be extremely difficult for parties on the scene to provide protection,” he said.

Tokyo should strengthen its intelligence-gathering ability, he said.

Meanwhile, the attacks in Belgium caused unease among Japanese tourists planning to fly to Europe.

At Haneda airport on Wednesday, departing passenger Mitsuko Ueno said she was upset to hear the news.

“I never imagined something like that would happen the day before I start my trip,” the 61-year-old part-time worker from Yokohama said. “My destination is a town in the Italian countryside, so I guess it’s fine,” she added, as if to reassure herself. She added, she was traveling in a group with friends.

At Narita airport, a 27-year-old woman from Tokyo’s Toshima Ward embarking on a trip to Italy and France said she was frightened to watch the news.

“I decided to make the trip after hearing from a friend in Paris that it’s all right over there, despite the terrorist attacks in the French capital in November,” she said.

Information From Kyodo Added

  • Paul Martin

    There is NO WAY to 100% secure any place anywhere. Security and police well know and understand that there will always be some loopholes and terrorists will always search for and discover them! This is WHY the ONLY and BEST way to confront and destroy the enemies of civilized peoples is to HUNT them down where they dwell and EXTERMINATE EVERY last one of them!

  • Barry Rosenfeld

    Whack a mole methods eh? And you call yourself a journalist? As I suspected, what a 1st class fraud you are, as you never took me up on my lunch invitation at the FCCJ last year, so stop spreading alarm and fear; Japan is quite safe, except save if Abe decides to unwisely to involve himself in the ME.

    I think you should think of the flawed and unnecessary invasions of Iraq and subsequent dismembered states of Libya, Syria and Afghanistan courtesy of the ignorant, childlike US foreign policy. If you had any sense of history (a most important arsenal of, ahem, journalists, not self awarded ones mind you) you would have wondered why we find the ME in such a bad mess that never happened before. The USSR prior to 1991, was the counter to US foreign policy, heavily influenced by Israeli designs, and gave us a peaceful balanced sense of power. Now with them gone, there is nothing to stop the US to march with impunity in these regions. Where there is no fire, there is no smoke, I think you should suggest that perhaps in the long run, it’s rather sound foreign policy rather than naked emotional aggression as you so aptly advocated that wins.

  • Firas Kraïem

    How is Kansai Osaka’s main airport? Itami is bigger than Kansai by all measures.

  • Paul Johnny Lynn

    Having recently visited Australia, via Hong Kong, I have to say sorry, but airport security here is a joke.