The opposition camp questioned Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday over his decision to announce millions of dollars in nonmilitary aid to countries battling the Islamic State group at a time when Japanese citizens were known to be among its captives.
In the Diet’s first question-and-answer session since the assembly opened Monday, Seiji Maehara, former president of the Democratic Party of Japan, asked Abe whether the administration had fully assessed the possible consequences.
“In Egypt, (Abe) pledged to provide a total of $200 million in aid to countries in the region battling the (Islamic State group), and as a result, it was used in their criminal declaration,” Maehara told Lower House lawmakers.
Abe pledged the aid on Jan. 17 during a six-day tour of the Middle East. Three days later, an Internet video emerged showing two Japanese men — journalist Kenji Goto and self-styled security contractor Haruna Yukawa — kneeling in orange jumpsuits alongside a knife-wielding masked man who demanded $200 million for the two hostages.
A second video Saturday showed still image of Goto holding a photo of what appears to be Yukawa’s decapitated body.
Maehara said other nations had been elevating their guard against the Islamic State group after deadly assaults in Paris by individuals claiming allegiance to the Islamist cause, and this raised questions about Abe’s sense of timing.
“How did you assume the risk of announcing support to countries at such a time?” he asked.
Abe responded that his administration had acted with good judgment. He restated his position that Japan will not give in to terrorism and will instead continue to provide nonmilitary support for the international community’s fight against it.
“If we give in to threats by terrorists for fear of taking risks, we can never provide humanitarian support to countries in the region,” he said. “We will not give in to terrorist threats. We will continue to extend humanitarian aid.”
Peace and stability in the Middle East is “extremely important for Japan from the standpoint of energy security and contribution to international issues,” Abe said, adding that the $200 million was to save the lives of over 10 million refugees in the region. He said it is Japan’s responsibility as a member of the international community to extend such help.