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Security stepped up in Osaka / Police, coast guard expand patrols during G-8 ministers meeting

OSAKA--Police and other authorities tightened security throughout the city on Friday, both on the ground and across waterways, as the Group of Eight finance ministers meeting got under way here.

The Osaka prefectural police will deploy about 6,000 officers during the event, including guards posted at the Osaka International Convention Center in the city's Kita Ward, the main venue for the meeting, its neighboring facilities and major train stations.

Road access to areas near the venue is restricted until the meeting concludes on Saturday, and all vehicles entering sites near the venue may be subject to police inspections. On Friday, many drivers were asked to open their trunks, and police officers also checked beneath cars for suspect materials.

Many of the trash cans at train stations in the city have been sealed.

About 500 officers of the Osaka Coast Guard Office and other coast guard offices will patrol Osaka Bay on more than 20 vessels, including the waters surrounding Kansai Airport, and several rivers in the city.

The coast guard office has asked firms and individuals to refrain from entering rivers by boat, including the Dojimagawa and Tosaborigawa rivers, both of which neighbor the venue for the meeting.

"As the venue is located near waterways, we must patrol the water for intruders," an official at the office said.

Behind the tight security is the authorities' determination to prevent possible terrorist attacks and other problems. The prefectural police have conducted several antiterrorist drills, noting that on July 7, 2005, terrorist attacks occurred in London while the G-8 summit was in progress in Gleneagles, Scotland.

The recent lethal rampage by a man in the Akihabara district of Tokyo was also seen as a motivating factor for placing the police and coast guard on high alert.

Tight security was in evidence on Friday evening during a reception for delegates to the finance ministers meeting, held at the Rihga Royal Hotel in Osaka and hosted by the meeting's promotion committee, which comprises the Osaka prefectural and municipal governments, and representatives of business and industry in Kansai. About 400 people attended, including Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto and Osaka Mayor Kunio Hiramatsu.

"It's very meaningful to have the finance ministers meeting in Osaka, a city that historically has been [financially prominent], to discuss issues such as stability of the world economy and [the rising cost of] food," Hashimoto said.

After the reception, Hashimoto and Hiramatsu visited the press center to promote Osaka speciality foods such as kushikatsu (deep-fried skewered food) and okonomiyaki (savory pancakes).
(Jun 14, 2008)

Source: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/summit/20080619dy03.htm