A Japanese diplomat emerged from talks in Jordan on Monday with no signs of progress in securing the release of a freelance journalist held hostage by the extremist Islamic State group.
Japanese officials refused direct comment on the contents of the talks in Jordan, where Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama is coordinating regional efforts to save hostage Kenji Goto.
The Islamic State group said in an online video on Jan. 20 that it had two Japanese hostages and would kill them within 72 hours unless Japan paid it $200 million — the same amount Tokyo recently pledged in aid to nations fighting the militants.
Over the weekend, a new, unverified video showed a still photo of Goto, a 47-year-old journalist, holding a picture of what appears to be the body of fellow hostage Haruna Yukawa. It included a recording of a voice claiming to be Goto, saying his captors now want the release of a prisoner held in Jordan instead of a ransom.
Asked if the latest demand makes the situation more complex, chief Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga avoided a straight answer. But he said, “Naturally, Jordan has its own thoughts.”
“The government is doing its utmost as the situation is still developing,” he told reporters. “We are seeking cooperation from every possible party toward a release (of the remaining hostage).”
Japanese officials have indicated they are treating the video released over the weekend as authentic and thus accepting the likelihood that Yukawa, a 42-year-old adventurer captured in Syria last summer, was killed.
“It was an extremely dastardly act,” Suga said.
This report was complied with information from The Associated Press