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A summary of editorials from leading Japanese newspapers (January 22, 2015)

post date : 2015.01.22

A summary of editorials from leading Japanese newspapers, posted biweekly.


              A group believed to belong to the Islamic State threatened to kill two Japanese hostages unless a $200 million ransom is paid within 72 hours in an online video released on Jan.20.


              The hostages have been confirmed to be Haruna Yukawa, a 42-year-old Chiba resident who was reportedly captured in Syria by Islamic State militants in August last year, and Kenji Goto, 47, a freelance journalist who went to Syria two months later to rescue Yukawa.


              The threat came as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe toured Middle East nations. In Cairo on Jan. 17, Abe pledged to provide $200 million to nations affected by the Islamic State.


              The five national dailies wrote about the hostage crisis in their editorials on Jan. 21, denouncing the threat as “despicable,” “appalling” or “self-serving.”




Funding for humanitarian purposes


              In the video, a knife-wielding militant directly addressed to the Japanese prime minister, saying the extremist group was demanding $200 million because of Abe’s pledge to provide a fund of the same scale to nations fighting the Islamic State. The group said Japan has “willingly…volunteered to take part in this crusade” and “donated $100 million to kill our women and children, to destroy the homes of the Muslims.”


              The five dailies all refuted the Islamic State’s claims.            

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) said such reasoning is misplaced. “Many people have been forced to evacuate their homes to flee violence of the Islamic State,” the economic daily said. “It is urgent to improve an environment for supporting refugees. [Japan’s provision of the fund] is humanitarian support for this purpose.”


              The Yomiuri Shimbun said the fund will mostly be used for humanitarian purposes such as the provision of food and medical services for refugees. “This is just a self-serving and misplaced demand,” the newspaper said.


              The Mainichi Shimbun denounced the Islamic State’s action, saying the groups’ claim that Japan is taking part in the crusade is “entirely off base.”

“It is widely known that Japan, which relies heavily on Middle East oil, values its relationship with the Arab/Muslim world and has promoted peace-oriented diplomacy that differs from the approaches taken by the U.S. and Europe,” The Mainichi said.


The Sankei Shimbun and The Asahi Shimbun also condemned the group’s hostage-taking and emphasized that Japan’s aid is for humanitarian purposes and nonmilitary in nature.



How to deal with hostage crisis.


 “It is an unforgivable act of terror,” Abe said at a press conference in Jerusalem on Jan. 20. “I feel strong anger.” The prime minister demanded the immediate release of the Japanese hostages and said the Japanese government was putting “human life first.”


The Sankei endorsed the government’s stance, articulated by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who said “We will not give in to terrorism and contribute to the fight against terrorism together with the international community.”

The Sankei said, however, Japan must not accept the “unlawful demand” lest Japan will be known as a country that surrenders to threat, encouraging similar crimes in the future. “What Japan should do is to take joint steps with international efforts to fight terrorism,” it said.


The Yomiuri said there have been cases of hostages being released through negotiations with hostage-takers through international cooperation. It urged the Japanese government to strenuously gather and analyze information about the Islamic State, but warned against accepting the unjust demand. “Should Japan comply with an unreasonable demand of a terrorism group, it is feared that Japan could be reckoned as a country vulnerable to terrorism. It will then embolden the terrorism group, which may trigger a similar incident.”


              The Asahi, meanwhile, said “saving their lives must be the government’s foremost priority.” Saying “international cooperation is indispensable when dealing with terrorism,” it urged the Japanese government “to work together with other countries to gather intelligence and patiently negotiate for the release of the two hostages.”


              The Mainichi also supported Abe’s stance to seek the prompt release of the hostages by placing human life first. “Japan should use its network of contacts in the Middle East and do everything it can to secure the hostage’s release.”


              The Nikkei also said Japan should “closely coordinate with countries in confrontation with the Islamic State and do its upmost to win an early release of the two men.”


*English translations of The Yomiuri, The Asahi, and The Mainichi are from The Japan News, The Asia & Japan Watch and The Mainichi, respectively. Those for The Sankei and The Nikkei are provisional. The content of this page was made by the Foreign Press Center/Japan and does not reflect the opinion of the Japanese Government or any other organization.


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