Japan’s latest hostage crisis has exposed shortcomings in Japan’s public diplomacy and raises questions about the advice Prime Minister Shinzo Abe received in publicly announcing $200 million in humanitarian aid to help those displaced by conflict with the Islamic State group.

Understandably, the prime minister wants to demonstrate solidarity with anti-Islamic State forces and make clear that proactive pacifism is not just empty rhetoric, but prominently throwing Japan’s hat into the ring proved a high-risk strategy for the hostages. Japan has long earned goodwill in the Middle East by discreetly working in the background rather then grandstanding, but maybe Abe thought he might get some kudos from Washington for the gesture.

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