(Mainichi: January 27, 2015 – p. 2)
One week has passed since the “Islamic State” extremist group apparently released a video in which it threatened to kill two Japanese hostages. On Jan. 24, the militant group released an image in which it claimed to have killed one of the hostages, Haruna Yukawa (42). The Japanese government regards this image as “credible” and is doing the best it can in negotiations with the group to secure the release of the other hostage, Kenji Goto (47). However, if the Japanese government explicitly urges the Jordanian government to agree to a “hostage exchange” as demanded by the group, it may invite the international criticism that “Japan yielded to terrorism.” The Abe administration is facing a difficult situation that could become a prolonged struggle.
“The situation could change quickly, or it could become prolonged and unpredictable, requiring both mental and physical stamina,” said PM Abe in a meeting with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the prime minister’s office on Jan. 26. He instructed Kishida to do everything possible to secure Goto’s release, keeping in mind that the situation could become prolonged.
In reference to the image released on Jan. 24 that includes a still photo and audio of a man that appears to be Goto, Chief Cabinet Secretary (CCS) Yoshihide Suga said in a press conference held on Jan. 26, “The administration has asked multiple organizations including the National Research Institute of Police Science to analyze them. There is a strong possibility that it is Goto.”
In order to achieve a breakthrough, the government is focusing on cooperation with Jordan, which shares a border with Syria. The perpetrator group demanded with the image released on Jan. 24 that Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, a death row inmate imprisoned in Jordan, be released in exchange for Goto. A government source analyzes the demand as “putting pressure on the close relationship between Japan and Jordan.”
The U.S., which is leading the airstrikes against the Islamic State, is concerned that the international alliance for the “war against terrorism” will be shaken. President Obama called Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Jan. 25 from India to stress the solidarity between Japan and the U.S. Abe responded by saying, “Japan will not yield to terrorism,” and asking for the president’s understanding. Ambassador Kennedy also spoke by phone with CCS Suga and Foreign Minister Kishida on the same day to convey the message that the “the U.S. would like to cooperate with Japan as a close ally,” which was taken as underscoring the U.S.’s uncompromising stance on terrorism.
Jordan has been cooperating with Western countries in counterterrorism efforts and did not agree to a “hostage exchange” between Rishawi and a Jordanian pilot who was captured by the Islamic State at the end of last year. Since Jordan maintains friendly relations with the U.S. and Europe, the country is now being forced to choose between Japan and the West. The Japanese and Jordanian governments are discussing how to deal with the situation, but they are both in difficult positions.
Foreign Minister Kishida said on the evening of Jan. 26, “The administration has been coordinating and communicating with Jordan and various other countries. We are hoping to cooperate in various ways, but I would like to refrain from commenting on the specifics at this time.”