Japan Pledges Diplomatic Efforts to Free ISIS Hostage Kenji Goto

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TOKYO - Japan’s government promised Monday to keep using diplomatic channels to secure the release of an ISIS hostage — but admitted it yet to make direct contact with his “despicable” kidnappers.

The country’s foreign minister traveled to Jordan to work on the release of freelance journalist Kenji Goto, who was captured in Syria.

His fate has been unclear since a deadline passed Friday for payment of a $200 million ransom. An audio recording released Saturday of Goto speaking in English confirming the execution of his fellow captive, Haruna Yukawa, is believed by Tokyo to be authentic.

“Human life remains this government’s foremost priority and from that perspective we are working closely with various nations, including Jordan, and religious leaders as well as tribal chiefs and other such organizations for the early release of Mr Goto,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Japan.

But when asked if any contact has been made with the hostage-takers he replied: "The government has not been in contact.”

In Saturday’s video, ISIS appeared to change its demand from a ransom to the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, who is jailed in Jordan for taking part in a series of 2005 hotel bombings in Amman. While her bomb vest failed, her husband's successfully detonated, killing nearly 40 people.


- Arata Yamamoto