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Japan Leader Warns of Foreigners

April 25, 2000

TOKYO (AP) _ A Cabinet minister warned today that illegal foreign residents could use mobile phones to set up drug deals and other crimes, the latest instance of a Japanese politician singling out foreigners as a source of crime.

The comments by Kosuke Hori, head of the Home Affairs Ministry, came several weeks after Tokyo’s governor set off a storm of criticism, particularly from Asian immigrants, by saying illegal foreigners must be watched because they are prone to crime.

Hori told parliament today that phone makers and the government should work to keep prepaid mobile phones from being used in crimes, saying that now the phones do not require users’ identification, making them hard to trace.

``Foreigners staying illegally can easily use them,″ particularly for drug deals or other crimes, Hori said.

Hori did not elaborate on why lax controls on mobile phones would be of more benefit to criminally inclined illegal residents than to anyone else.

His comments were made in response to news that two suspects in a kidnapping outside Tokyo used prepaid cellular phones to call the victim’s father. Both of the suspects were Japanese.

Earlier this month, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara linked illegal immigrants to ``atrocious″ crimes, setting off an uproar from rights groups and Asian communities because of a derogatory wartime term he used to describe them.

Ishihara said Japan’s military should be on the alert because they may riot after an earthquake.

Ishihara later said he regretted offending Koreans and Taiwanese living in Japan but insisted that illegal immigrants are a threat to society. Koreans and Chinese are Japan’s largest ethnic minorities.

Prepaid mobile phones, which allow calls only up to a limit paid for in advance, do not require registration by the purchaser, unlike regular phones.

Update hourly