Japan-ISIS Hostage Negotiations Are Underway, But Time Is Running Out

Shiite Muslim fighters, loyal to Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, take part in a last combat training near the city of Najaf on August 23, 2014, before joining the government forces to fight Islamic State (IS) jihadists in the Jurf al-Sakhr area, south of Baghdad. Iraqi officials worked to calm soaring tensions after the killing of 70 people at a Sunni mosque, as Washington branded the beheading of an American journalist a 'terrorist attack.' AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR HAMDANI (Photo credit should read HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria gave the Japanese government just 72 hours to come up with a $200 million ransom in exchange for two hostages, both of whom are Japanese nationals. As time runs out, the Japanese government is still struggling to negotiate with ISIS — but the terrorist group has remained silent. So far, Japan has used third-party channels, including government officials from Turkey and Jordan, in its attempts to contact ISIS.

The Japanese government has just one more day to secure the safe return of its two citizens, Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa. Goto is a freelance journalist who entered ISIS territory in the fall to cover the plight of the Syrian people, CNN reports. Yukawa is an aspiring security contractor, who wanted to train with fighters in Syria for experience for his security company, according to The Japan Times. Although Yukawa reportedly met with rebel fighters in Syria, he did not train or meet with ISIS. He was also previously held captive by the Free Syrian Army last spring, but was released soon after.

The two men reportedly met in Syria last April, though it appears they were captured by ISIS militants separately. Yukawa was believed to be captured in August, while Goto disappeared after returning to Syria in late October. 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to not pay the massive ISIS ransom, which would damage Japan's reputation with the United States and Great Britain. ISIS has been known to request millions of dollars from Western countries in exchange for the safe release of their hostages, but the United States and Great Britain have continually refused to pay out. National security experts have said in recent days that it's likely Japan will follow America's lead.

On Tuesday, the Japanese government said in a statement:

Japan will not give in to terrorism, and our position of contributing to the counter-terrorism efforts by the international community remains unchanged.

In a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Abe again stood firmly as he denounced the actions of ISIS, which he called "abhorrent," and reiterated that Japan wouldn't crumble under the weight of the ransom. The prime minister added the Japanese government has been doing all they can to contact ISIS and bring home the two captured nationals:

I once again strongly urge the group not to harm the two Japanese nationals and to release them immediately. The Japanese Government continues to exert every effort for our response to this issue while prioritizing the lives of the hostages. In the midst of this formidable battle against time, we must develop thorough information operations.... The Government will do everything it can on this issue while utilizing, to the maximum extent, the relationships of trust cultivated with the countries of the Middle East through our diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map, along with every other channel and route.

This is the first time ISIS has targeted Japan, following months of recorded threats and ensuing executions of American and British citizens. Japan was most likely attacked by the militant terrorist group because of Abe's recent offer of $200 million of nonmilitary aid to countries in the Middle East currently fighting ISIS. 

Images: Getty Images

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