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Commentary – The foundation of friendly ties between Japan and Jordan

  • 2015-01-30 15:00:00
  • , Mainichi
  • Translation

(Mainichi: January 30, 2015 – p. 3)


 By Megumi Nishikawa, senior editorial writer


 Jordan has a population of 7 million and is about the same size as Hokkaido. It maintains amicable ties with Western nations, but its geographical location suggests the complexity it faces.


 On the West, it borders Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Apart from Saudi Arabia, all these neighbors have constantly engaged in warfare and conflicts. The Gulf War of 1991, the Iraq War of 2003, and the ongoing Syrian civil war have sent a flood of refugees into the Middle Eastern country, including fighters and Islamic extremists.


 But the threats to Jordan do not only come from the outside. Jordan is also home to Islamic extremist groups. In fact, the founder of the Islamic State is from Jordan. Though the country is essentially friendly with Western nations, its excessive attachment to the U.S. and Europe raises the hackles of the public.


 King Abdullah II has long maintained a delicate balance in steering the country. He has been cracking down on domestic extremists, while carefully dealing with the Western countries so as not to give the public the impression that the country is fully united with them. That is why I was surprised to learn that Jordan joined the U.S.- and European-led air strikes against the Islamic State, but I can imagine that the threat from the terrorist group must be growing stronger in Jordan.


 Japan and Jordan have long maintained friendly ties backed by their royal families, but there is one episode illustrating the friendship between the two nations that not many people know about.


 In 1953, Emperor Akihito, who was then the Crown Prince, attended Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation on behalf of his father. However, the seat he was shown to at Westminster Abbey was not commensurate with his station. The treatment was thought to have reflected Japan’s status in the international society. This was only eight years after the end of World War II, and anti-Japanese sentiment still lingered deeply in the U.K.


 But at the ceremony, Jordan’s King Hussein bin Talal went up to the Crown Prince and invited him to sit beside him.


 The Jordanian monarch was 17 at the time and had just been enthroned the preceding year. He took the Crown Prince, who was 19, to sit with him in the front row at Westminster. The members of Jordan’s royal family are Hashemites, descendants of Prophet Muhammad. The British government had reserved a prime seat for the Jordanian monarch. Photos taken at the ceremony show King Hussein dressed in traditional costume watching the ceremony in the front row beside the Crown Prince.


 I heard this story from a former diplomat. “King Hussein saved Japan’s honor at a time when the international community looked at Japan in a harsh light,” the person said. “I will never forget his kindness.” The royal families of the two countries have since forged close ties. King Hussein died in February 1999. Ten months later, Japan invited King Abdullah, his successor, as a state guest to pay respects to the Jordanian monarchy.


 As I write this article, the Islamic State has yet to release the hostages in exchange for a death-row inmate imprisoned in Jordan. But the foundation of the friendship between Japan and Jordan is worth sharing.

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