DPJ questions Abe’s timing of Mideast aid


Staff Writer

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.

  • Scott Reynolds

    I’m no fan of Mr. Abe. But I must say that for the DPJ to use the hostage crisis for political gain against the LDP is pretty disgraceful.

    • Paul Johnny Lynn

      What I think is more disgraceful is Abe’s cynical use of two Japanese national’s lives to further his hopes for a more militarily powerful Japan. Questioning both the timing and content of his speech in Egypt, especially given that the government knew there were hostages already, seems to me to be not only reasonable, but in fact the minimum required of an opposition in a (so-called) democracy.

      • Scott Reynolds

        First, I do not think this hostage situation furthers Abe’s hopes for a stronger military in Japan. Quite the opposite, actually. Second, I disagree with the idea implicit in what you write that Japan, or any other country, should tailor its foreign policy to some vague desire to avoid antagonizing terrorists and thugs like the Islamic State.

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        And I fail to see how you fail to see this. Japanese hostages overseas killed by terrorists…”This is why we need to be able to defend ourselves!” he cries “Hear, hear!” chorus his lackeys and the far-right in their black trucks. He’s already riding rough-shod over the democratic process by pushing what he wants through the diet without consultation of the electorate, now he has a nice little “See, I told ya’ so!” to wave at them.
        I wasn’t saying that governments should pander to the likes of I.S. either, rather that, considering they KNEW there were 2 Japanese captives (though hadn’t let that information out) it seems either careless and stupid, or calculated and callous to have said what he said, when and where he said it.

      • Scott Reynolds

        My sense is that the more common reaction here is one of “see, this is what getting involved in faraway foreign conflicts gets us; let’s stay well clear of foreign entanglements.” And it’s not a matter of Japan defending itself, either. There is no threat to Japan involved here. This is a foreign conflict that most Japanese people do not want to be involved in.
        As I said earlier, this is a net political minus for Abe, not a plus.

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        I agree with you, but that doesn’t mean Abe does. Have you not noticed the shift to the right of politics around the world? The “War On Terrorism” is being used as an excuse by many countries to increase surveillance of ALL citizens, to justify military budgets, and curtail freedom of the press. While it may very well be that most Japanese people don’t want anything to do with any of this, Abe has his sparkling, fresh new mandate does he not? And he’s already shown a proclivity for paying scant regard to the electorate’s wishes, should they not coincide with his own.

      • Scott Reynolds

        I certainly do agree with you that Abe’s own views and intentions are not constrained by public opinion. All I was saying is that the current hostage fiasco is likely to hinder his agenda rather than help it. Sure, this may just be wishful thinking on my part. We’ll all have to wait and see how things turn out.

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        My fear is that the silent majority ( all those people who DIDN’T vote against the LDP in the recent election) will remain as silent as usual. It’s fairly well known from polls that most people are loathe to see Japan become a military power again, but will they stand up and be counted?

      • I agree with Scott. They have had that excuse for years with the abductions off of the Japan coastline by N. Korea.

      • Bernd Bausch

        Where do you see Abe using this case to further his military plans? Regarding opposition, even the Communist Party gives Abe a break. This is a crisis; they can resume fighting later.