As the latest Islamic State deadline ticked closer on Thursday, one analyst said the Abe administration’s response to the hostage crisis may leave other Japanese at risk of being kidnapped as political extremists and profiteers now see them as easy prey.
Nobuhiko Suto, an international affairs analyst and former Lower House lawmaker, said what terrorists have learned is that Japanese are valuable cards to hold.
“Countries like the United States, France and the United Kingdom have stood firm against terrorism by showing no compromise. . . . However, Japan has reacted with rather excessive fear and panic,” he said.
The Abe administration is partly to blame, Suto said, because an address Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made in Israel may have provoked the Islamic State group into lashing out.
“Japan had long maintained a fairly neutral stance toward the Islamic State group, and therefore the extremists had no intention of harming Japanese people,” he said. “However, once (Abe) clearly announced that Tokyo would support the nations opposing the Islamic State, it told the extremists that Japan is within their scope of targets.”
In the Diet on Wednesday, Abe said he will take steps to safeguard Japanese citizens overseas.
“We will cooperate closely with the international community and exchange information quickly to ensure (citizens’) safety; and we will reinforce security measures inside Japan,” he said.
Abe spoke of the “growing threat of terrorist groups in the world” and said the government will bolster security especially at airports and ports.
“We will maintain our stance of not giving in to terrorists, and do our best to contribute actively to global peace and stability,” he said.
The Foreign Ministry advises against traveling to Syria for the time being and has urged any Japanese there to leave.
However, one acquaintance of hostage Kenji Goto said the crisis has been an anomaly, and that Japanese should not worry about a new emerging threat.
Freelance war correspondent Jumpei Yasuda said Goto and Haruna Yukawa went willingly to a conflict zone and represent exceptional cases, not the norm. This means other Japanese do not face a notably greater risk from terrorists.
Nevertheless, Yasuda noted that all Asians have recognizable faces and this potentially makes them a target for terrorists seeking ransom.