April 21, 2004
Big news brewing in Japan?By Thomas Lifson
Almost unnoticed by the American press, the aftermath of Japan's hostage crisis in Iraq is developing in a direction which may have permanent and serious positive implications for American foreign and military policies.
Prime Minister Koizumi's response to the kidnapping of the first three Japanese taken hostage in Iraq marked a watershed in Japan's posture for dealing with external threats. Prime Minister Koizumi simply refused to 'go Spanish' in the face of terror threats against his citizens. As the Wall Street Journal notes (link requires subscription), Japan had previously embraced the notion that the lives of hostages must be paramount. In the words of former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, who capitulated to Japanese Red Army airplane hijackers, 'human life is heavier than the Earth."
Having watched the Red Army metastasize into a far larger and bloodier threat in the aftermath, Japan has learned some lessons. The specter of a nuclear—armed North Korea lobbing missiles over the Japanese Archipelago has also done wonders for the strengthening of the Japanese national spine.
Despite large public anti—war demonstrations and tearful pleas from relatives of the hostages, the public has been strongly backing Koizumi's tough stance.
Now, a steady stream of news, much of it leaked from governmental sources, is hinting that the first three hostages may have faked their kidnapping. If and when these suspicions becomes provable, the public backlash in Japan against the anti—war left could be fearsome, and drive Japan's foreign policy even further toward muscular collaboration with American defense efforts. Given Japan's formidable economic and technological resources , the coalition of the willing would benefit substantially for a long time to come.
The left—leaning daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun now reports that the three activists have been treated very differently by the Japanese government than another group of two hostages, released shortly after the first group was freed. While the first group of three were hermetically shielded from the press, and were taken back to Japan under guard, prevented from interacting with, or even being photographed by the press while flying on a commercial airliner (in coach, it must be noted), to face police questioning, the second group has been free to speak with the press while in Dubai, and under no official constraints on where they go and with whom they speak.
Kyodo News Service of Japan reports that the Japanese government plans to charge the three hostages for the costs of the chartered airplane which took them from Iraq to Dubai immediately after their release. The government reckons this bill at 660,000 yen (approximately $6000). Meanwhile, the Asahi quotes a senior ruling party official as saying that the total cost to the government of the incident is about two billion yen (approximately $18.46 million dollars), which some influential politicians want to bill directly to the families of the hostages, if only for symbolic value.
Various politicians have gone on the record with harsh words for the three hostages. Fukushiro Nukaga, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council, said
``The families above anything else should say they are sorry for causing such trouble, and their initial request for the government to pull the Self—Defense Forces out of Iraq is questionable,'' Kiichi Inoue, state minister in charge of disaster prevention, told reporters. ``Since they caused a lot of trouble for many people, they should acknowledge their responsibility.''
``This may sound harsh, but people must take into consideration that they are responsible for themselves before they act,'' education minister Takeo Kawamura told reporters. ``In a way, this is an educational issue.''
Such conspicuous lack of sympathy is in marked contrast to the words of US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who
``I am very pleased,'' Powell said in an interview with Tokyo Broadcasting System reported by Kyodo. ``I was very worried about the Japanese hostages and I am so pleased that they have been released and that they are safe.''
Powell said the three Japanese should be commended for their activities in Iraq.
``If nobody was willing to take a risk then we would never move forward, we would never move our world forward.''
Most interesting of all is word leaked from police sources, based on interrogation results, that the hostages were actually instructed to pretend to be scared. Kyodo News Service reports
Iraqi militants asked three Japanese nationals to pretend to be scared when videotaping them after kidnapping them earlier this month, Japanese police sources said Tuesday after interviewing the trio.
The video showing the three being threatened with knives and guns was broadcast on the Al—Jazeera TV news channel on April 8 as part of the kidnappers demand that Japan withdraw its Self—Defense Forces troops from Iraq.
Stay tuned. The Japanse are paying close attention. Fully forty percent of the population watched live coverage of the release of the three hostages.
Like everyone else, the Japanese deeply resent deception intended to maniputlate their emotions. Japan's national will to defend itself, once mobilized, is extremely formidable. No one, least of all Japan's Asian neighbors, doubts Japan's capability to become a serious military power, once the will is present. Fortunately, this time around, Japan is firmly anchored to the cause of human freedom and democracy.