Abe says likelihood of video being real is ‘high’


Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that the “credibility” of the online video apparently posted by the Islamic State group Saturday is “high,” suggesting Tokyo believes Japanese hostage Haruna Yukawa was actually killed by the extremists as claimed in the clip, which includes a shocking still image of what appeared to be his corpse.

“To our regret, we have no choice but say to the credibility (of the video) is high,” Abe said during a live interview with NHK. The prime minister had appeared on the program as earlier scheduled.

“Such an act of terrorism is outrageous and impermissible,” Abe said. “I feel strong indignation. I resolutely condemn this.”

The Islamic State group had threatened to kill journalist Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa, a self-styled private security contractor, in a separate video posted on the Internet on Tuesday, demanding Japan pay $200 million within 72 hours.

The video released Saturday showed a still image of Goto holding a photo of what appeared to be Yukawa’s beheaded body.

Some experts and media outlets have questioned the authenticity of the video clip, which was posted on the Internet around 11 p.m. Saturday.

The clip did not bear the logo of al-Furqan, a media arm of the Islamic State group that has issued past videos involving hostages and beheadings.

Junko Ishido, Goto’s mother, told reporters in Tokyo that she does not believe the voice of the man on the video is that of her son.

The government, however, is taking the claims made in the video very seriously.

“We will make further efforts to seek the release (of Goto). And we will not give into terrorism,” Abe told NHK.

“We won’t change this stance of ours,” he added.

The man’s voice on the video identified himself as Goto and, speaking in English, claimed that the Islamic State group had executed Yukawa because Abe had failed to pay the ransom by the deadline.

In the video, the voice attributed to Goto also said the Islamic State group was abandoning its ransom demand and instead urged the release of Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi in exchange of Goto.

Al-Rishawi, reportedly an Iraqi, was the wife of Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari, who, together with three other suicide bombers killed 57 people in three hotels in the Jordanian capital of Amman in 2005.

Al-Rishawi is reportedly imprisoned in Jordan. Questioned if Tokyo would ask Amman to release her in exchange of Goto, Abe declined to comment.

“We’d like to refrain from discussing how we will deal with (it) because the situation is changing right now,” Abe said.

“At any rate, we will put our top priority on (saving Goto’s life) and closely cooperate with Jordan to cope with the situation,” he added.

“We should stop this tide of extremism,” Abe said.

The prime minister also said the stability of the Middle East is “critically important” for Japan, which is heavily dependent on oil exports from the region.

Abe vowed that Japan would continue giving food, medical and other humanitarian aid to evacuees who have fled areas controlled by the Islamic State group.

“This is aid that evacuees keenly need,” the prime minister said. “We shouldn’t changed our policy” of providing such assistance.

Later the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga faced reporters at an 11 a.m. news conference. Asked if Tokyo had had any direct communications with the Islamic State group other than the release of videos, Suga said: “No, we haven’t.”

Meanwhile, a high-ranking Japanese official said that the government had analyzed in detail the image of what appeared to be Yukawa’s corpse, including its facial features.

“We have found nothing to deny” the group’s claim that it has executed Yukawa, the official said.

  • George Kafantaris

    What country would oppose the United Nations in putting together international ground forces to ferret out the ISIS barbarians?
    So why is the UN not doing so?
    Inaction has consequences, and proof of this is the emergence of ISIS itself from our inaction in Syria.
    Should the resourceful nation of Japan turn a new leaf and abandon its pacifist policies, the UN will have more to worry about than snuffing out disorganized bands of savages.

    • João Unger

      Unfortunately, some might do just that. Some nations in the place are largely to blame for ISIS mere existence, since they’ve been pumping up their extremist ideology for years (to destabilize their opponents). Both Saudi Arabia and Iran and others are known to support terrorists that go against their adversaries. But even they seem to be willing to at least condemn ISIS, even if not willing enough to fight them.

      Maybe, by fighting ISIS (filled with modern weapons and angry radical drugged up – this is true, google it – terrorists), they might risk being painted as “western/jewish puppets” and “traitors to Islam” and lose support in their own nations? I don’t know. I’ve read somewhere that the smallest countries in the region, at least, would risk losing their own governments if they attacked ISIS.

      The rest of the world are ruled by a bunch of useless idiots, though (especially Europe and the US), who seem to care more about not offending their enemies than anything.

      I don’t think Japan can just turn unpacifist, though. Losing the war, theyr constitution now forbids them of having standing armies (in practice, they have the same thing, but without enough offensive weapons and vehicles to actually wage war against others, or war abroad; they were only permitted to have military-like forces to defend their own country; some people would to change that, nowadays, others are against it).

  • A.J. Sutter

    Another way to read this situation is that Abe is hoping to use the events to soften the public to accept collective self-defense, and possibly even deployment of Japanese forces on various other Middle Eastern missions.

    Even in the original video Yukawa looks fatter than he ought to if he he had been captured in August. The edges around the images of the captives also make the video look digitally manipulated. It’s possible he was killed long ago, but ISIS/Daesh is making clever use of images to manipulate the outside world. In this case, the information that he was beheaded might be correct, but the event may have been more remote in time than Daesh is trying to make it appear. Daesh is obviously handling this in a clever manner, such as by driving a wedge between Japan and its ally Jordan. It seems unlikely that the Japanese government is naive about the possibility that Daesh understands how to manipulate appearances, especially since their diplomats have been in touch with Jordan and Turkey and have no doubt been briefed by them.

    Nonetheless, Japan’s government is no slouch in the manipulation department, either. (No successful government is.) So it goes through various motions, such as letting it be released that Abe was presented with the option of a military strike to save the hostages, but rejected it because it was against the constitution. This seems intended to make Abe look like one of those unbendable old heroes of the Roman Republic.

    The deaths of these men, especially Yukawa, are also something of a blessing to Abe’s government, because they avoid a dilemma of what to do with them if they are brought back home.

    Despite Goto’s halo of being a journalist, his reckless deliberate border crossing seems to have been based on a hero-complex, an attempt to “save” the probably already-dead Yukawa. Many Japanese commenters on blogs and news stories blame him for voluntarily entering dangerous territory, and ignoring advice from many local officials. But the press can spin the story on one of their own, as they already do with his purported mother who didn’t even know she was a grandmother. (BTW are the rest of us supposed to be reassured by her message that Goto-san “is not an enemy of ISIS”?) So it might be possible to turn around any public annoyance with Goto.

    On the other hand, given that Yukawa is also reputed to have been a weapons dealer, it’s hard to believe he would have been welcomed by the Japanese public. Would he have been prosecuted on his return? So he’s of more use to Abe dead than alive, as a “martyr” to Japan’s constitutional inability to protect its own citizens.

    Of course, the fact that trying a military operation might be suicidal too, or lead to more and higher-value hostages — as evidenced by the US avoidance of rescue missions for American hostages – is never mentioned. Only Abe’s noble stand on principle.

    • KenjiAd

      Despite Goto’s halo of being a journalist, his reckless deliberate
      border crossing seems to have been based on a hero-complex, an attempt
      to “save” the probably already-dead Yukawa.

      Mr Goto reminds me of some notable Japanese journalists (including Katsuichi Honda of Asahi) who went into the Vietcong territories during Vietnam War and produced fascinating reportage.

      These aggressive journalists, I think, are primarily motivated by their professional desire to get a sensational scoop that no regular journalists can and will get their hands on.

      Reporting from inside the Vietcong or ISIS would satisfy that desire, which, I agree, does seem to be reckless. But remember that many western journalists chose to stay inside Iraq when bombs started falling. Mr Goto is just an extreme version of them in my opinion.

      Many Japanese commenters on
      blogs and news stories blame him for voluntarily entering dangerous
      territory, and ignoring advice from many local officials.

      With a risk of over-generalization, the kind of comments you refer to above are typical in Japan, a country which does not value any sort of adventure by individuals.

      In 1962, a young yachtman named Kin’ichi Horie wanted to cross the Pacific, from Japan to California, solo by a small (20-ft) sailboat. The Japanese government wouldn’t give him a passport, saying his plan was suicidal.

      Horie went ahead anyway and successfully finished his voyage, reaching San Francisco in 3 months, the first-ever cross Pacific sailing solo. Even though his landing in America was technically illegal, the American mayor gave him a hero’s welcome and a temporary visa.

      When he went back to Japan, he was fined for hos “illegal” voyage which bothered people in Japan. Oh well.

      • A.J. Sutter

        Well, as a journalist I know pointed out, it’s the responsibility of journalists to go into dangerous places. That’s reasonable, but it’s not so clear that it’s apt for Goto-san’s present case. Especially when Goto-san himself said that he alone is responsible if anything happens to him, I’m not so sure the Japanese public would be unreasonable to feel annoyed about a rescue, ransom or other arrangement costing many millions of US dollars — there are a lot of daycare centers, elder care facilities, education programs, etc. one could set up for that kind of money.

        At the same time, it looks like the true nature of Yukawa-san’s activities may be more ambiguous than I thought. I live near the Defense Ministry. Right after my previous post, I went to lunch in my neighborhood. The owner of the restaurant I visited told me that he had seen Yukawa-san often there, apparently in the company of someone from the Ministry and discussing files concerning official business. So his activities might have had the blessing of the Government, though exactly what those activities were remains mysterious. To continue your ’60s trope, recall the Mission Impossible proviso, that if caught or captured, “the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.”

      • KenjiAd

        It’s not unreasonable for the Japanese public to get annoyed by Mr Goto’s adventure which must be costing some tax-payer’s money. His mother knew that and that’s why she apologized.

        I just wonder how people in other countries would have reacted to a similar situation. Perhaps the closest case might be that of James Foley, an American freelance journalist who was ultimately beheaded by ISIS.

        I might have missed it if any, but I don’t recall any comments depicting him as someone bothering people in America just because he got captured by bad people in Syria. I certainly don’t recall his relatives apologizing for people in America or American government who actually attempted his rescue by military.

        For Mr Yukawa, all I can say is RIP. My sincere condolences to his families…

        Yeah, I;m old enough (born 1959) to remember Mission Impossible. To tell you the truth, I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t remember the Moon Landing. That’s my yardstick to discriminate people. :-)

  • sbignewski

    Years ago I saw an interview with someone who lived in of Germany through the 1930’s and 40’s. He said he feared his country had lost the war, even in the triumph of Spring, 1941. He gave as the reason for this idea, his realization that Germany had pretty much declared war on the entire world. Nobody declares war on the entire world and wins for long.

    These maniacs seem to have declared war on the entire world.

    They seem intent upon proving it.

  • timefox

    It’s Islamic nation that Japanese was kidnaped. Kidnapping is a crime. Islamic nation is vice as of this.

    The person doing Japanese Government criticism has forgot that Islamic nation kidnaps and has killed Japanese.

    When you’re a supporter of Islamic nation of course, a bad one will be Japanese Government.

  • Tedbaxter

    America is weakening; it is time to drop Article 9.

  • Skinhead

    Isn’t worldpressphoto contest a bit responsible for those journalist deats? They need a reason to take such risks, right?