Japan seeks foreign help in securing release of Islamic State hostages

Kyodo, JIJI

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has requested help from the United States and France in securing the release of two Japanese hostages the Islamic State group threatened to execute in a video posted online on Tuesday.

Both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius promised to do what they could to bring about an early, satisfactory resolution, Kishida told reporters in London.

The United States “strongly condemns” the threat to kill the pair and called for their immediate release, along with that of other hostages currently being held, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Tuesday.

“The United States is fully supportive of Japan in this matter,” Jen Psaki said in a statement. “We stand in solidarity with Japan and are coordinating closely.”

A video posted online appears to show an Islamic State militant threatening to kill Haruna Yukawa and journalist Kenji Goto unless $200 million in ransom is paid.

Kishida also said Tuesday that Japan would seek cooperation from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and from Britain in securing the hostages’ release.

He told reporters he strongly resented the threats to kill Japanese citizens because Japan has not been involved in combat operations against the Islamic State.

The ransom amount appears to match a $200 million aid package Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced recently for countries affected by the militant group, which the speaker in the video described as funds “to fight the Islamic State.”

Kishida said the aid was provided for nonmilitary purposes including aid to refugees displaced by conflict with the militants.

Meanwhile, in separate phone calls with leaders of Jordan, Turkey and Egypt on Tuesday, Abe secured pledges of support from those nations to have the hostages freed. Abe is currently on a tour of the Middle East.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II told Abe that Amman would do all it could to ensure the hostages’ release. That would include gathering information, he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would provide support, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said he would work toward securing the hostages’ freedom.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the two men’s unconditional release.

Ban is “obviously very concerned about the fate of these two hostages,” as he is about the “fate of all people” taken by armed groups in Iraq and Syria, said Stephane Dujarric, Ban’s spokesman

The U.N. chief calls for the immediate release of all hostages “unconditionally,” Dujarric added.

Yukawa is known to have been traveling to countries such as Syria and Iraq for business purposes. Goto, an acquaintance of his, went missing in October after he left for Syria.