Attempted Rocket Attack on U.S. Base in Japan Fails

Associated Press

A truck with a five-tube rocket-launching device exploded in flames today near a U.S. Air Force base west of Tokyo, officials said, in what was believed to be an attempt by radicals to fire homemade rockets at the facility.

No injuries or damage was reported in what one officer called "this cowardly attack."

At the White House, presidential spokesman Larry Speakes said "it's too early" to connect Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi with the attack at Yokota, 21 miles from Tokyo.

A Japanese police official said the explosion occurred at about 8:40 p.m. a little more than a mile northeast of the base.

He said it was not known if any rockets were launched from the truck, but Lt. Jim Reagan, an Air Force public affairs officer at Yokota, said the fins of one rocket were found in an open area inside the base.

"We have no idea who would have instituted this cowardly attack on our installation," the officer added in a telephone interview.

He said Japanese police reported that the yellow Mitsubishi pickup truck, bearing forged license plates and parked in a tea field, contained five rocket-launching tubes that were empty.

Witnesses said they heard four loud bangs before the truck burst into flames, police said.

Missile attacks last month were aimed at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and other buildings, including the main site of the summit meeting of industrial nations planned for Tokyo in May. Responsibility for those attacks was claimed by leftist radical groups opposed to the summit and to celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Emperor Hirohito's reign.

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