YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

5 Rockets Miss State Guest House, Do Little Damage

May 05, 1986|ANDREW HORVAT | Times Staff Writer

TOKYO — Five rockets were fired over Japan's state Guest House on Sunday, moments before President Reagan was to arrive for official welcoming ceremonies. The primitive rockets carried no explosives and inflicted minimal damage, a police spokesman said.

The rocket attack, apparently the work of Japanese radicals, missed its mark. One rocket crashed into the sidewalk outside the Canadian Embassy, about half a mile from the Guest House, the meeting site for most of the events of the seven-nation economic summit.

The President, who was en route to the welcoming ceremonies from the U.S. delegation's headquarters at the Okura Hotel when the rockets were launched, was asked later if he were concerned about the attack.

"No," he said, "they missed."

Fragments of one rocket struck the sidewalk at the Canadian Embassy and another hit the roof of a nearby apartment building. A third ended up inside the planter of an apartment balcony.

The only reported damage was to the fourth-story apartment of the densely populated Shinjuku neighborhood where the rockets were launched, 1 1/2 miles from the Guest House. Smoke billowed from the apartment, but the fire was so minor that it extinguished itself.

In a prepared statement, Canadian Ambassador Barry Steers said that police told him "the launch was directed against the Akasaka Detached Palace (the former name of the Geihinkan or state Guest House) area and not the Canadian Embassy itself."

The Canadian Embassy compound is separated from the Guest House by a six-lane highway.

"No one was hurt, nobody was terribly upset and there was no damage," Steers said.

'Safety Comes First'

Yet, when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher suggested at an official reception that the summit leaders go for a walk to show they were not afraid of the rockets, her Japanese host, Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone vetoed the idea, saying, "Safety comes first."

Although no radical group has claimed responsibility for the rockets, a Tokyo police spokesman said the devices "bore a close resemblance to the kind made by the Middle Core Faction," Japan's largest urban guerrilla organization.

The faction is one of many groups of the extreme left that have denounced the summit as a meeting of imperialist powers plotting to start a third world war.

About 1,000 members of the Middle Core Faction and their sympathizers chanted "Blast the summit!" and "Down with Nakasone!" at a rally just hours before the missile attack.

'No Explosives Found'

"Five metal cones fell between 800 meters (880 yards) and one kilometer (1,100 yards) from the Guest House," the police spokesman said. "No explosives were found in the cones."

Although the rockets fell wide of their mark, their range--nearly two miles--was more than twice that of the rockets used previously by Japan's radical leftists.

Until Sunday's episode, police had believed that the maximum range of the homemade rockets assembled by radical groups was three-quarters of a mile. Earlier, a senior police official dismissed suggestions that the radicals would be able to extend the range of their rockets in time to pose a threat to summit security.

A police official said, "We searched more than 50,000 houses within a two-kilometer radius of the summit sites. The missiles were launched from an apartment house outside that area."

The official added that police will start searching more houses but refused to comment further on new security arrangements.

Cars, Buses Searched

Tokyo police responded to the latest attack in force, checking all cars and buses within a mile of the Canadian Embassy and the Guest House for hours afterwards.

A police blimp and several helicopters hovered overhead while police buses blocked the highway, forcing heavy Sunday traffic into a single file.

Sunday's abortive attack marked the sixth time since March 25 that Japanese radicals have aimed homemade projectiles at such Tokyo buildings as the U.S. Embassy and the palace of Emperor Hirohito.

There have been more than 20 rocket attacks by radical groups nationwide in the past year. Tokyo Police Chief Hideo Yamada said recently that authorities must crack down on radical missile attacks because the radicals are close to developing "weapons grade" projectiles.

A recent raid on a Middle Core Faction hideout netted about 40 pounds of explosives.

Sunday's abortive attack marked the sixth time since March 25 that Japanese radicals have aimed homemade projectiles at such Tokyo buildings as the U.S. Embassy and the palace of Emperor Hirohito.

Los Angeles Times Articles