Thursday, 22 January 2015

Japan and jihad: Sand storm

Nguồn tin:

Goto, no stranger to war’s anguish

A TOUR of the Middle East by Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, was knocked sideways by the news on January 20th that Islamic State (IS), the extreme jihadist group in Iraq and Syria, threatened to kill two Japanese hostages unless Japan quickly pays a ransom of $200m. The sum demanded is equal to an amount Mr Abe had committed days before in Egypt to give to countries battling IS. As The Economist went to press, the outcome seemed uncertain.

Japan’s heavy reliance on Middle Eastern oil and gas prompts a desire to foster stability in the region. How to handle the hostage crisis now poses Mr Abe’s toughest foreign-policy challenge. He vowed to use all means to secure the two men’s release. Yet paying a ransom would anger America, Japan’s ally, while Japan has neither the skills nor, because of a pacifist constitution, the legal backing to mount a rescue mission itself. In any negotiations with IS, Japan must preserve the appearance of being a reliable partner against terrorism, says a government official, but should explore ways to free the hostages. In the past, Japan has paid ransoms.

The two captured men make an unlikely pair. Haruna Yukawa appears to be something of a lost soul who travelled to Syria to find himself. He joined rebels fighting IS, which captured him last summer. Kenji Goto is a seasoned journalist and documentary maker known for his portrayals of the human anguish of war. If he approached IS with a view to securing Mr Yukawa’s release, he will have done so with his eyes open.

As for Mr Abe, the crisis complicates his avowed mission to have Japan play a bigger part in the world (he is no fan of the pacifist constitution). To judge by social media, ordinary Japanese not only have sympathy for the hostages but also support Mr Abe’s efforts to free them. But many Japanese also wish the troubles of the wider world would just go away. That hope has now got harder.

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