Trump foolishly said ‘samurai’ Japan should have shot down overflying North Korean missiles

Japan Times reports: U.S. President Donald Trump has said Japan should have shot down the North Korean missiles that flew over the country before landing in the Pacific Ocean earlier this year, diplomatic sources have said, despite the difficulties and potential ramifications of doing so.

The revelation came ahead of Trump’s arrival in Japan on Sunday at the start of his five-nation trip to Asia. Threats from North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development programs were set to be high on the agenda in his talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday.

Trump questioned Japan’s decision not to shoot down the missiles when he met or spoke by phone with leaders from Southeast Asian countries over recent months to discuss how to respond to the threats from North Korea, the sources said.

The U.S. president said he could not understand why a country of samurai warriors did not shoot down the missiles, the sources said. [Continue reading…]

Joe Cirincione writes: The number one reason we don’t shoot down North Korea’s missiles is that we cannot.

Officials like to reassure their publics about our defense to these missiles. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told his nation after last week’s test, “We didn’t intercept it because no damage to Japanese territory was expected.”

That is half true. The missile did not pose a serious threat. It flew over the Japanese island of Hokkaido, landing 3700 km (2300 miles) from its launch point near North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang.

The key word here is “over.” Like way over. Like 770 kilometers (475 miles) over Japan at the apogee of its flight path. Neither Japan nor the United States could have intercepted the missile. None of the theater ballistic missile defense weapons in existence can reach that high. It is hundreds of kilometers too high for the Aegis interceptors deployed on Navy ships off Japan. Even higher for the THAAD systems in South Korea and Guam. Way too high for the Patriot systems in Japan, which engage largely within the atmosphere.

All of these are basically designed to hit a missile in the post-mid-course or terminal phase, when it is on its way down, coming more or less straight at the defending system. Patriot is meant to protect relatively small areas such as ports or air bases; THAAD defends a larger area; the advanced Aegis system theoretically could defend thousands of square kilometers.

But could we intercept before the missile climbed that high? There is almost no chance of hitting a North Korean missile on its way up unless an Aegis ship was deployed very close to the launch point, perhaps in North Korean waters. Even then, it would have to chase the missile, a race it is unlikely to win. In the only one or two minutes of warning time any system would have, the probability of a successful engagement drops close to zero. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Kim Jong-un vows ‘equilibrium’ with U.S. military

The Associated Press reports: The leader of North Korea said his country was nearing its goal of military “equilibrium” with the United States, which he said would deter talk about a “military option” to resolve the current standoff, according to remarks carried by the North’s official news agency on Saturday.

The statement by Kim Jong-un came a day after the United Nations Security Council strongly condemned North Korea’s “highly provocative” ballistic missile test over Japan on Friday.

The missile traveled 2,300 miles as it passed over the Japanese island of Hokkaido before landing in the northern Pacific Ocean. It was North Korea’s longest-ever test flight of a ballistic missile.

The North has confirmed that the missile was an intermediate-range Hwasong-12, the same model it launched in a test over Japan last month. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

North Korea launches another missile, escalating crisis

The New York Times reports: North Korea fired another ballistic missile over Japan on Friday, a direct challenge to the United States and China just days after a new sanctions resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council that was intended to force the country to halt its accelerating nuclear and missile tests.

The missile was not aimed at the Pacific island of Guam, which President Trump had warned could prompt a military response after North Korea threatened to fire missiles into the sea near the island last month.

Instead, it blasted off from near the Sunan International Airport north of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and flew about 2,300 miles directly east, flying over northern Japan and falling into the Pacific Ocean, according to the South Korean military. That is a slightly greater distance than between the North Korean capital and the American air base in Guam, and American officials, scrambling to assess both the symbolism and importance of the test, said it was clearly intended to make the point that the North could reach the base with ease. [Continue reading…]

David Wright writes: Guam lies 3,400 km from North Korea, and Pyongyang has talked about it as a target because of the presence of US forces at Anderson Air Force Base.

This missile very likely has low enough accuracy that it could be difficult for North Korea to use it to destroy this base, even if the missile was carrying a high-yield warhead. Two significant sources of inaccuracy of an early generation missile like the Hwasong-12 are guidance and control errors early in flight during boost phase, and reentry errors due to the warhead passing through the atmosphere late in flight. I estimate the inaccuracy of the Hwasong-12 flown to this range to be likely 5 to 10 km, although possibly larger.

Even assuming the missile carried a 150 kiloton warhead, which may be the yield of North Korea’s recent nuclear test, a missile of this inaccuracy would still have well under a 10% chance of destroying the air base. [Continue reading…]

Ankit Panda writes: Friday’s trajectory also had similarities to the last Hwasong-12 launch. One of the features of the August 29 trajectory that was immediately notable was how it crossed over Japanese territory roughly in the vicinity of the Tsugaru Strait, which separates the Japanese islands of Hokkaido and Honshu. The only major Japanese urban center to fall under the missile’s trajectory was Hakodate in Hokkaido. The trajectory almost appeared to have been designed to allow North Korea to test its missiles to a longer range while overflying as little of Japan’s territory as necessary. The launch was no doubt still provocative, but the provocation was more muted than it would have been had North Korea simply overflown Honshu, near the population-defense Kanto region, for example.

North Korea repeated this azimuthal approach with Friday’s launch. One important difference was that the missile this time flew to a range of 3,700 kilometers. That suggested this was North Korea’s first test attempt of the Hwasong-12 IRBM to full-range at a trajectory close to what’s known as the minimum energy trajectory—the most efficient trajectory that allows for a maximization of the missile’s range. Remember: North Korea basically told us it was going to do this. We’d been warned. With two tests along this trajectory, we should have a much better idea of what is likely to become a regular-use missile corridor for North Korean long-range testing.

The second test along this trajectory without any attempt at interception or any reaction from Japan and the United States beyond rhetoric will likely not serve to deter North Korea from future launches. Pyongyang will keep using this trajectory for long-range missile tests, fully aware that the two allies are likely incapable of or unwilling to attempt interception. The Hwasong-14 intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM) will likely be the next to see flight-testing along this trajectory. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

North Korea threatens to sink Japan and turn U.S. to ‘ashes and darkness’

The Guardian reports: North Korea has threatened to sink Japan and said the US should be “beaten to death like a rabid dog” after the two countries spearheaded fresh UN security council sanctions in response to the regime’s recent nuclear test.

The Korea Asia-Pacific peace committee, which oversees North Korea’s relations with the outside world, described the UN security council, which passed a new round of sanctions on Monday, as a “tool of evil” in the pay of Washington, and called for it to be broken up.

It is the first time that Pyongyang has issued an explicit threat to Japan since it fired a medium-range ballistic missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido at the end of last month, triggering emergency sirens and mass text alerts.

“The four islands of the [Japanese] archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche,” the committee said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency. Juche is the ideology of self-reliance pioneered by Kim Il-sung, the country’s founder and grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong-un.

“Japan is no longer needed to exist near us,” the committee added. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Seoul tries to ignore Trump’s criticism: ‘They worry he’s kind of nuts,’ one observer says

The Washington Post reports: South Korea’s president tried late Sunday to dismiss talk of a dispute between Seoul and Washington over how to deal with North Korea following its sixth nuclear test, after President Trump criticized the South Korean approach as “appeasement.”

Moon Jae-in’s office said that his government would continue to work towards peaceful denuclearization after tweets and actions from Trump that have left South Koreans scratching their heads at why the American president is attacking an ally at such a sensitive time.

As if to underline Seoul’s willingness to be tough, the South Korean military conducted bombing drills at dawn Monday, practicing ballistic missile strikes on the North Korean nuclear test site at Punggye-ri.

The South Korean military calculated the distance to the site and practiced having F-15 jet fighters accurately hit the target, the joint chiefs of staff said Monday morning.

“This drill was conducted to send a strong warning to North Korea for its sixth nuclear test,” it said.

After North Korea conducted its nuclear test Sunday, Trump tweeted: “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”

Trump did not talk to Moon on the phone Sunday — in stark contrast to the two calls he had with Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan and a leader who has proven much more willing to agree with his American counterpart. This will worsen anxieties in Seoul that Tokyo is seen as “the favorite ally,” analysts said. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

North Korean missile flies over Japan, escalating tensions and prompting an angry response from Tokyo

The Washington Post reports: North Korea launched a ballistic missile Tuesday morning that flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, the most brazen provocation of Kim Jong Un’s five-year-long rule and one that will reignite tensions between Pyongyang and the outside world.

The launch poses a further challenge, in particular, to President Trump, who has made North Korea a favorite rhetorical target.

In Japan, the prime minister was visibly agitated by North Korea’s actions. “Launching a missile and flying it over our country was a reckless act, and it represents a serious threat without precedent to Japan,” Shinzo Abe said after an emergency national security council meeting.

Japan’s upgraded missile response system swung into action, sending emergency alerts through cellphones and over loudspeakers shortly after 6 a.m. local time, warning people on the potential flight path of the threat and advising them to take cover. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Why there is no realistic option of a ‘surgical strike’ on North Korea

The New York Times reports: The standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program has long been shaped by the view that the United States has no viable military option to destroy it. Any attempt to do so, many say, would provoke a brutal counterattack against South Korea too bloody and damaging to risk.

That remains a major constraint on the Trump administration’s response even as North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, approaches his goal of a nuclear arsenal capable of striking the United States. On Tuesday, the North appeared to cross a new threshold, testing a weapon that it described as an intercontinental ballistic missile and that analysts said could potentially hit Alaska.

Over the years, as it does for potential crises around the world, the Pentagon has drafted and refined multiple war plans, including an enormous retaliatory invasion and limited pre-emptive attacks, and it holds annual military exercises with South Korean forces based on them.

But the military options are more grim than ever.

Even the most limited strike risks staggering casualties, because North Korea could retaliate with the thousands of artillery pieces it has positioned along its border with the South. Though the arsenal is of limited range and could be destroyed in days, the United States defense secretary, Jim Mattis, recently warned that if North Korea used it, it “would be probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.”

Beyond that, there is no historical precedent for a military attack aimed at destroying a country’s nuclear arsenal.

The last time the United States is known to have seriously considered attacking the North was in 1994, more than a decade before its first nuclear test. The defense secretary at the time, William J. Perry, asked the Pentagon to prepare plans for a “surgical strike” on a nuclear reactor, but he backed off after concluding it would set off warfare that could leave hundreds of thousands dead.

The stakes are even higher now. American officials believe North Korea has built as many as a dozen nuclear bombs — perhaps many more — and can mount them on missiles capable of hitting much of Japan and South Korea. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

North Korea launches missile that could strike Alaska; Trump launches more tweets

 

In January, Donald Trump said “it won’t happen,” but now it’s happened:

Quartz reports: For years, North Korea has been doggedly working toward fielding an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the US. Today (July 4), it says it achieved that goal.

North Korea said in a television broadcast that it fired an ICBM called the Hwasong-14 late morning local time from its western region. The missile traveled some 930 km (580 miles) at a maximum altitude of 2,802 km for about 40 minutes, before landing in the Sea of Japan. David Wright, co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that if the missile had been sent on a standard trajectory, it would likely have been able to hit any target in Alaska. But with a maximum range of about 6,700 km (4,163 miles), it would not be able to hit the US mainland or the bigger islands of Hawaii.

News of North Korea’s ICBM success could kick off a serious escalation between the nation and its neighbors plus the US, which have been pressuring Pyongyang over its weapons programs.

This marks North Korea’s 13th missile test in 2017, and its fourth since president Moon Jae-in took power in South Korea in May, according to Shea Cotton, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California. [Continue reading…]

Last month, Jeffrey Lewis wrote: North Korea’s test of an ICBM will complete the development of a nuclear arsenal with a defined strategic role. It is the final step in building an arsenal that can deter and, to use another term of art, repel an American invasion. If deterrence were to fail, and an invasion were underway, North Korea already plans the widespread use of nuclear weapons against U.S. forces in South Korea and Japan. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: As news of the test broke, but before North Korea claimed it was an ICBM, Trump took to Twitter, calling out North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and appearing to once again urge China to do more to pressure him. “North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” Trump wrote.

“Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer,” he continued. “Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared to share Trump’s frustration, if not his tone. In remarks to the press, he vowed to work closely with the United States and South Korea, but called on China and Russia to do more.

“I’d like to strongly urge international society’s cooperation on the North Korea issue and urge China’s chairman, Xi Jinping, and Russia’s President Putin to take more constructive measures.”

In a daily press conference, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, condemned the test but countered that Beijing had “spared no effort” in its fight. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Merkel’s hoped-for G-20 climate alliance is fracturing

Der Spiegel reports: German Chancellor Angela Merkel had actually thought that Canada’s young, charismatic prime minister, Justin Trudeau, could be counted among her reliable partners. Particularly when it came to climate policy. Just two weeks ago, at the G-7 summit in Sicily, he had thrown his support behind Germany. When Merkel took a confrontational approach to U.S. President Donald Trump, Trudeau was at her side.

But by Tuesday evening, things had changed. At 8 p.m., Merkel called Trudeau to talk about how to proceed following Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. To her surprise, the Canadian prime minister was no longer on the attack. He had switched to appeasement instead.

What would be wrong with simply striking all mentions of the Paris Agreement from the planned G-20 statement on climate, Trudeau asked. He suggested simply limiting the statement to energy issues, something that Trump would likely support as well. Trudeau had apparently changed his approach to Trump and seemed concerned about further provoking his powerful neighbor to the south.

The telephone call made it clear to Merkel that her strategy for the G-20 summit in early July might fail. The chancellor had intended to clearly isolate the United States. at the Hamburg meeting, hoping that 19 G-20 countries would underline their commitment to the Paris Agreement and make Trump a bogeyman of world history. A score of 19:1.

If even Trudeau is having doubts, though, then unity among those 19 is looking increasingly unlikely. Since then, the new formula has been to bring as many countries as possible together against one.

The first cracks began appearing on the Thursday before last. After returning from the G-7 summit in the Sicilian town of Taormina, Merkel had sent a clear signal to her team: “We have to stay together, we have to close ranks.”

But even before Trump announced the American withdrawal from the Paris Agreement that evening in the White House Rose Garden, it had become clear in Berlin that they would miss their first target. Led by the Italian G-7 presidency, the plan had been for a joint reaction to Trump’s withdrawal, an affirmation from the remaining six leading industrial nations: We remain loyal to Paris.

Suddenly, though, Britain and Japan no longer wanted to be part of it. British Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t want to damage relations with Trump, since she would need him in the event of a hard Brexit, the Chancellery surmised last week. And given the tensions with North Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe couldn’t put his country’s alliance with the U.S. at risk. In other words: Climate policy is great, but when it comes to national interests, it is secondary. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

U.S. allies draw close to Trump at their peril

The New York Times reports: A close relationship with any American president is regarded as crucial by allies and foes alike, but especially by intimates like Britain, Canada, Japan and Mexico. Yet like moths to the flame, the leaders of those nations are finding that they draw close at their peril.

While [Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa] May is the latest prominent figure to suffer repercussions for her handling of Mr. Trump, the leaders of those other three close allies have also felt the sting of public anger soon after what seemed to be friendly telephone calls or encounters. They then find themselves facing a no-win situation, either openly criticizing the leader of their superpower ally or pulling their punches and risking severe criticism at home.

One Western leader to escape this fate so far is the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who has kept a cool distance from Mr. Trump. In a telephone call on Saturday, she reminded him of Washington’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions to accept refugees fleeing war, a view underlined by her official spokesman.

The danger of playing nice with Mr. Trump should come as little surprise to his country’s allies. Besides campaigning on an “America First” platform, he has regularly argued that allies have been taking the United States for a ride, in trade, security and financial terms.

While he has been cordial in public settings with the leaders of those allied nations, Mr. Trump has turned on them soon afterward.

“The problem for May is that Trump doesn’t value relationships. He values strength and winning,” said Jeremy Shapiro, the director of research at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a former senior State Department official. “If you rush to the White House to offer a weak hand of friendship, you guarantee exploitation.” [Continue reading…]

Paul Mason writes: We have two choices: we can acquiesce and let this sociopathic sex pest grab our collective hand amid the scary world he has created. We can abase ourselves for special favours – such as exemption for British dual nationals. Or we can reject Trump in his entirety.

Just as Trump is meddling – via Ukip – in the racial politics of Britain, British liberalism and socialism has the duty now to intervene in the social politics of the US. We must bet on Trump’s defeat in 2020, help train and fund lawyers and journalists to hold him in check, and – once he is gone – attempt to rebuild the multilateral order. Yes, and ruin his state visit: through all forms of protest legally possible.

The shape of a Dump Trump foreign policy is clear: Britain must strengthen its alliance with countries whose governments and peoples share our values: France, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada and Greece. Although we are headed out of the EU, the case for the softest possible form of Brexit is only strengthened by the US’s descent into arbitrary government. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Kerry encourages Obama to visit Hiroshima

The New York Times reports: Secretary of State John Kerry attended a memorial ceremony in Hiroshima on Monday for victims of the American atomic bombing 71 years ago, becoming the highest-ranking United States administration official to visit the site of one of the most destructive acts of World War II.

The visit is likely to intensify speculation about whether President Obama will go to Hiroshima during a planned trip to Japan next month. Mr. Obama would be the first sitting American president to visit the city, a decision that would resonate deeply in Japan but would be controversial at home.

“Everyone should visit Hiroshima, and everyone means everyone,” Mr. Kerry said at a news conference on Monday in response to a question about whether Mr. Obama would go. He said that the president had been invited by Japanese officials and that he would like to visit someday, but Mr. Kerry added: “Whether or not he can come as president, I don’t know.”

Mr. Kerry spoke after he and other leading diplomats from the Group of 7 industrialized countries toured Hiroshima’s atomic bomb museum, laid flowers at a cenotaph in its Peace Memorial Park and examined the former exhibition hall that stood directly under the atomic blast and has been preserved as a skeletal monument. He called the experience “stunning” and “gut-wrenching.”

Mr. Kerry and the other officials were in the city for talks ahead of the annual Group of 7 summit meeting next month, to be hosted by Japan.

The question of how to acknowledge the nuclear attack on Hiroshima, and another on the city of Nagasaki three days later, has long troubled American diplomats. The bombings ultimately killed more than 200,000 people, most of them civilians, in a country that after the war was transformed from an enemy of the United States into one of its closest allies.

But a majority of Americans have long believed that the bombings were necessary to force Japan’s surrender and to spare American lives. [Continue reading…]

An article by Ward Wilson, published in Foreign Policy in 2013, argues, however, that Japan’s decision to surrender probably had much less to do with the effect of nuclear weapons, than with Stalin’s decision to invade.

Facebooktwittermail

Fukushima: The price of nuclear power

Michael Ignatieff writes: Four years ago, the fishing town of Namie, on the northeast coast of Japan, lived through an experience of malediction biblical in scope. Beginning at 2:46 PM on March 11, 2011, without warning, the town’s population of 23,000 was struck by a triple disaster in quick succession: an earthquake measuring nine on the Richter scale that severely damaged the upper town, a fifteen-meter tsunami that carried away the entire lower town, and finally, in the days that followed, a blanket of radioactivity, from explosions in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant just six miles away, that settled over the town’s ruins.

Today grass grows on the sidewalks in Namie. There are no cars, no people, anywhere. Through shop windows you can still see goods that tumbled off the shelves and remain on the linoleum floors gathering dust. Everything is as it was left in the panicked evacuation. In one building, the earthquake has left behind a three-inch fissure in a wall, a vase lies in pieces on the floor of a sitting room, and the windows of a sunroom have collapsed in shards. Nearby a store sign—in English—“Suzuki watch, jewelry, optical”—lies collapsed on the sidewalk; the bus shelter where the municipal buses turned around is empty; a sign saying “Louer: Total Beauty Salon” still hangs over a shuttered shop; and at the town’s main intersection, the single traffic light is still blinking on and off.

Four years after the calamity, no one from Namie can return home. It remains in the “red zone,” a contaminated area fifty miles by ten where the winds and rains carried a plume of radioactivity in the days after the disaster. Today there are parts of town where radiation measures twenty-six times the Tokyo level. Caesium-137 is washed down by the rains and accumulates in the weeds that grow near the gutters. Yet Japan — along with much of the world — still considers nuclear power an essential part of the energy mix necessary to meet the challenge of climate change. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Effort by Japan to stifle news media is working

The New York Times reports: It was an unexpected act of protest that shook Japan’s carefully managed media world: Shigeaki Koga, a regular television commentator and fierce critic of the political establishment, abruptly departed from the scripted conversation during a live TV news program to announce that this would be his last day on the show because, as he put it, network executives had succumbed to political pressure for his removal.

“I have suffered intense bashing by the prime minister’s office,” Mr. Koga told his visibly flabbergasted host late last month, saying he had been removed as commentator because of critical statements he had made about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Later in the program, Mr. Koga held up a sign that read “I am not Abe,” a play on the slogan of solidarity for journalists slain in January at a French satirical newspaper.

The outburst created a public firestorm, and not only because of the spectacle of Mr. Koga, a dour-faced former top government official, seemingly throwing away his career as a television commentator in front of millions of viewers. His angry show of defiance also focused national attention on the right-leaning government’s increased strong-arming of the news media to reduce critical coverage.

Many journalists and political experts say the Abe government is trying to engineer a fundamental shift in the balance of power between his administration and the news media, using tactics to silence criticism that go beyond anything his predecessors tried and that have frustrated many journalists. These have included more aggressive complaints to the bosses of critical journalists and commentators like Mr. Koga, and more blatant retaliation against outlets that persist in faulting the administration. At the same time, Mr. Abe has tried to win over top media executives and noted journalists with private sushi lunches. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Kenji Goto’s apparent ISIS beheading condemned by Japan, world leaders

The Associated Press reports: Appalled and saddened by news Sunday of journalist Kenji Goto’s beheading, apparently by Islamic State extremists, Japan ordered heightened security precautions, but vowed not to give in to terrorism.

The failure to save Goto raised fears for the life of a Jordanian fighter pilot also held hostage. Unlike some earlier messages, there was no mention of the pilot in an online video purporting to show an Islamic State group militant beheading Goto, circulated via social media late Saturday by militant sympathizers.

The slaying of Goto, a freelancer whose work focused on refugees, children and other victims of war, shocked this country, which until now had not become directly embroiled in the fight against the militants. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Japanese reporter’s bid to save friend led to ISIS abduction

Before the apparent murder of the Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa, Reuters reported: It is an unlikely friendship that ties the fates of war correspondent Kenji Goto and troubled loner Haruna Yukawa, the two Japanese hostages for which Islamic State militants demanded a $200 million (132.34 million pounds) ransom this week.

Yukawa was captured in August outside Aleppo. Goto, who had returned to Syria in late October to try to help his friend, had been missing since then.

For Yukawa, who dreamed of becoming a military contractor, travelling to Syria had been part of an effort to turn his life around after going bankrupt, losing his wife to cancer and attempting suicide, according to associates and his own accounts.

A unit at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been seeking information on him since August, people involved in that effort said. Goto’s disappearance had not been reported until Tuesday’s video apparently showing him and Yukawa kneeling in orange t-shirts next to a masked Islamic State militant wielding a knife.

Yukawa first met Goto in Syria in April and asked him to take him to Iraq. He wanted to know how to operate in a conflict zone. They went together in June.

“He was hapless and didn’t know what he was doing. He needed someone with experience to help him,” Goto told Reuters in August.

Yukawa then returned to Syria in July on his own. Goto, 47, returned to Japan. Yukawa’s subsequent abduction haunted Goto, who felt he had to do something to help the man, a few years his junior. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

ISIS wants to swap this woman for Japanese hostage

Al Jazeera: The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has reportedly demanded the release of an Iraqi woman detained in Jordan in exchange for a Japanese national they have held captive.

In a video recording posted online on Saturday, Kenji Goto, a freelance Japanese journalist abducted while reporting on Syria’s civil war last year, spoke of ISIL’s demand for a prisoner exchange to guarantee his release.

“They are just demanding the release of their imprisoned sister Sajida al-Rishawi. It is simple. You give them Sajida and I will be released,” Goto says in the video.

Facebooktwittermail

ISIS threatens to kill two Japanese hostages, demands ransom from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

The Washington Post reports: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shifted his Middle East visit into crisis mode Tuesday after the Islamic State threatened to kill two Japanese hostages unless the extremist group receives a $200 million ransom within the next 72 hours.

The video, posted on militants’ Web sites Tuesday, shows an apparent Islamic State fighter wielding a knife and standing between two hostages wearing orange jumpsuits, whom the militants identify as Kenji Goto Jogo and Haruna Yukawa.

A senior Japanese diplomat, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the subject, said Goto, a well-respected Japanese journalist, was last heard from on Oct. 24. He had told friends he was traveling to Kobane, a flashpoint town on the Turkish-Syrian border, but it is unclear exactly where he was kidnapped.

“I’m in Syria for reporting,” he told the AP in an e-mail late last year. “I hope I can convey the atmosphere from where I am and share it.”

Yukawa went missing in August.

“We don’t know what he does exactly,” the diplomat said. “He says he runs a private military company, but we don’t have these kinds of companies in Japan. We believe he is a military fanatic, but he doesn’t have any official military experience. He’s not a fighter.”

“Officially, we don’t pay ransoms,” he added. “In some incidents in the past we might have paid, but we’d never announce it. I don’t know what will happen now.” [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail