Response to the government’s handling of the hostage incident in Algeria

The government of Algeria has carried out military operations in response to an incident in which Japanese citizens and other foreign nationals were taken hostage by an Islamic extremist group at a facility related to natural gas in the country. Algeria has taken a policy of not negotiating with the Islamic extremists, and its interior minister has stated, “Our government does not negotiate with terrorists.” Therefore this type of response was as predicted.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was visiting Thailand, heard about the military actions and held a telephone talk with Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal of Algeria. During the talk, he requested that Algeria halt its military actions, saying, “The highest priority should be put on protecting people’s lives. I am deeply concerned over actions jeopardizing human life, and urge the military to refrain from taking such actions.”

It is the responsibility of the government to protect the lives, safety, and property of citizens, so the position of calling for priority to be given to saving lives is understandable. Nevertheless, in order to achieve safety and security in the international community, the spread of terrorism must be stopped. If global terrorist organizations see the weak stance of the Japanese government with regard to terrorism, they will get the impression that Japan will yield to threats, and as a result, this could result in Japanese citizens becoming targets for further acts of terrorism in the future.

Furthermore, this type of response brings into question whether the Prime Minister would be prepared to dispatch the Self-Defense Forces if Japanese citizens were to be taken hostage by China or North Korea. Prime Minister Abe’s recent weak response to terrorism will not only increase the strength of terrorist organizations, but it can also be considered a policy blunder in terms of security because it may attract specific dangers from the neighboring countries that bear ill will toward Japan.

In the Dhaka Japan Airlines hijacking that was carried out by the Japanese Red Army in 1977, the Prime Minister at that time Takeo Fukuda made concessions with the criminals, saying, “Human life outweighs the earth.” Members of the extremist group were released under “extralegal measures,” and a large ransom was paid. Subsequently Japan received criticism from Europe and the United States, which take an uncompromising stance toward terrorism.

Japan must take a similar approach to Europe and the United States and indicate that it does not give in to terrorism under any circumstances. Furthermore, there are currently many Japanese citizens residing abroad, so legal systems must be quickly developed that will enable the Self-Defense Forces to rescue such citizens, with a view toward protecting their lives and safety.

Hissho Yanai,
Party Leader
Happiness Realization Party