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"Chinese airports to scan for liquid explosives"


 
Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Chinese airports to scan for liquid explosives
By Ben Blanchard


BEIJING, (Reuters) - China will introduce special machines at its 147 civil
airports to spot liquid explosives, a senior Chinese official said on
Tuesday, vowing to protect travellers during the 2008 Olympics from terror
attacks.

The newly developed machines, described by its Chinese maker NUCTECH as the
world's most sophisticated, will be installed gradually nationwide, said
Yang Chengfeng, head of the General Administration of Civil Aviation of
China's security division.

China banned passengers from taking almost all liquids on flights in hand
baggage following a crash in May 2002 off the northern city of Dalian, which
killed 112 people and was blamed on a passenger setting fire to gasoline
carried in soft drink cans.

"If you want to guarantee passenger safety, you have to make an investment.
We have to protect against liquid explosives," Yang told Reuters on the
sidelines of a news conference to unveil the new machines, already on trial
at a few Chinese airports.

"I'm preparing to install these machines at all of China's civil airports,"
he said, without providing a timeframe.

Yang declined to give an investment figure, but the scanners are sold at
$200,000 a unit on the international market, NUCTECH executives said.

The European Union and United States earlier this year introduced strict
controls on what liquids could be carried onboard after British police said
they had foiled a plot in the summer to blow up aircraft using liquid
explosives.

Yang added that China had not discovered any specific terror threats to its
airlines or airports, but this did not mean the threat was not real.

"Every country has people who are dissatisfied with society, though we've
never had anything like September 11," he said. "Yet we do have a problem in
Xinjiang, which is unavoidable."

China keeps a tight grip on the oil-rich, far western region of Xinjiang,
and considers militant members of the Muslim minority Uighur people who live
there terrorists, blamed for a string of bombings and assassinations in the
1990s.

Uighur groups have not previously been blamed for attacks on Chinese
aircraft or airports.

But China did see a rash of hijackings in the early 1990s, mostly by people
demanding to go to Taiwan and air safety was tightened.

China adopted additional security measures after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks
on the United States, including putting air marshals on flights.

Yang promised safe travel for passengers during the 2008 Beijing Olympic
Games, saying the civil aviation authority was looking at enacting new
security measures, such as having separate security channels for passengers.

Even with the new scanners, he said the ban on most types of liquids being
taken on board in hand luggage would remain.

"We have confidence that the Olympics will be safe," Yang said.

"We had 48 heads of state come through Beijing airport during the
China-Africa Summit," he added. "I think this was a rehearsal for the
Olympics."

Yang said he was certain that China's airport security was as good as any in
the world, including in those countries reguarly threaten by terror attacks.

"Israel has very strict security and so do we. Many other countries are not
as good as we are."

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