We repeat our condemnation of the acts of the Islamic State extremist group, which claims to have killed both of the two Japanese they took hostage, Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa. Its attempt to justify their killings by accusing Japan of taking part in the war against it does not make sense, and its threat to “cause carnage wherever (Japanese) people are found” should not deter Japan from contributing to the international fight against terrorism in its own, nonmilitary ways.
The hostage crisis underscored that Japan and its people can be the targets of international terrorism. We obviously need to be on guard at the government, business and individual levels. But in doing so, we first need a cool-headed assessment of what we’re facing up to and what’s lacking in our system to protect our people from the threats of terrorism.
In initially seeking a ransom of $200 million for the lives of Goto and Yukawa on Jan. 20, the militants charged that Japan joined a “crusade” led by Western powers against the group by citing the same amount as humanitarian aid that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged in his Mideast tour for countries in the region battling the group, which has seized large swaths of Syria and Iraq in its violent quest to create an Islamic caliphate. In a video that the Islamic State group posted online early Sunday, which appeared to show that Goto had been murdered, the militants named Japan as part of the “satanic coalition” of nations that have launched airstrikes against it and blamed Abe for taking part in “an unwinnable war.”
These accusations have no justifiable grounds, and any demands made while holding people hostage and threatening their lives is unacceptable in the first place. But we still must realize that this is how the group has come to view Japan — and make our responses on that basis. An appeal to reason — by emphasizing that its aid was meant for humanitarian purposes such as support for refugees displaced by conflicts — proved ineffective.
Yukawa, a private security contractor, was reportedly seized by the Islamic State group last August, while Goto, a freelance journalist, is believed to have been kidnapped after he entered Syria in October. The government is said to have been aware of the emails sent to Goto’s wife from the hostage-takers — reportedly demanding a ransom of about ¥2 billion — and made attempts in vain to contact the kidnappers.
Some experts question if the government had properly weighed the risk of the group taking action against their Japanese hostages when Abe, in his speech in Cairo just before the crisis unfolded, characterized the humanitarian aid as assistance to countries battling the Islamic State group.
“We will never give in to terrorism. The government will do all it can to protect the safety of the Japanese,” Abe told the Diet on Monday, pledging to increase efforts for intelligence gathering, protection of Japanese nationals overseas, border measures to prevent terrorism, and tighter security at key facilities. He also said, “We will never forgive the brutal and outrageous terrorists. We will work with the international community to have them pay for their crimes,” while at the same time denying that Japan has any intention of joining the airstrikes against the Islamic State, including logistical support for such operations.
Japan, indeed, needs to stick to its nonmilitary contributions to the fight against terrorism. Our reaction to the tragic end to the hostage crisis should not lead us to deviate from that policy.