Japan Calls Up Military Jets to Guard Footballers ; WORLD CUP Co-Hosts Protect English and US Teams with Surface-To- Air Missiles and Planes amid Fear of Terrorist Strikes by Al-Qa'ida

Article excerpt

WITH TWO days left until the World Cup opens, attention in Korea and Japan is shifting away from the danger of hooligans to focus on the much deadlier threat of international terrorism.

Football grounds in Korea are being provided with the kind of protection usually reserved for military bases, with surface-to-air missiles and equipment to detect biochemical weapons installed at several stadiums. Both host countries are mobilising fighter aircraft to patrol the skies during matches.

Despite fears among locals of fan violence, police in Japan say privately that they are more concerned with the danger of attacks on the England and United States football teams by al-Qa'ida terrorists.

"Terrorism is the biggest concern," a senior Japanese police officer told The Independent, "and England are one of the obvious potential targets. We're paying a lot of attention to the security of aeroplanes and taking precautions against biological and chemical terrorism."

Unprecedented security surrounds Awaji island, where England are training. Officials refuse to give details of the precise precautions they are taking in case that it will diminish their effectiveness. But they will include armed police and coastguards on land, in the sea and in the air.

From their camp in the town of Tsuna, England have a choice of two local airports and are likely to alternate between them in an attempt to confuse potential terrorists. The seaside training ground is surrounded by high fences, and at least 80 police and private security guards will patrol it around the clock. Similar precautions will be in place at the Westin Awaji Island hotel where the players and their entourage will be staying.

Police in South Korea gave a glimpse of the anti-terrorist resources being deployed when the American team landed at Inchon airport, Seoul, on Friday. Inside the airport itself, the players walked down a corridor of several hundred armed police to a bus, which was escorted into the city by a convoy of patrol cars, motorcycle outriders and a van containing an eight-man Swat team. …