Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Algerian Hostage Incident Calls for Change in Japan's Perspective on Diplomacy
MOMOI Jiro / Lecturer, Chubu University

March 13, 2013
The hostage incident in Algeria came to an end as military troops stormed the compound. But it came at an exorbitantly heavy price. Among the victims were many employees and staff of JGC Corporation, a leading Japanese plant maker that had been constructing energy facilities in Algeria as an irreplaceable partner in the country's development since the 1960’s following its independence. JGC has many employees with expert knowledge on Algeria, who spent years working and forging close human relationships in the country. On its part, Algeria has given high recognition to JGC's contribution. Thus the tragic conclusion of this incident was all the more heartbreaking for both Japan and Algeria.

While it is difficult to fathom the political process within Algeria, it is generally understood that political decisions depend on the seesawing balance of power between the President's camp and the military intelligence establishment. However, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been dogged by ill health and it has been pointed out that his influence had waned over the past few years. Prime Minister Abdemalek Sellal acts as the President’s aide, yet he also served as Minister of the Interior in the 1990's and has connections with the military intelligence establishment. There may have been no political deterrent at work against the assault operation advocated by the military.

The Japanese government made the right decision in dispatching Parliamentary Vice-Minister Kiuchi Minoru to Algeria at an early stage. In a country where information is synonymous with authority, accurate information is often concentrated in the hands of a few top officials, and the true picture doesn't emerge unless a meeting is held between officials with relevant authority. In any case, information concerning security is placed under the strict control of the military intelligence establishment, so any attempt at collecting information must have been excruciatingly difficult. While it is important that Japan discuss issues such as its own version of a National Security Council, revision of the Self- Defense Forces Act and reassignment of military attaché at its embassies, it is a mere delusion to think that such things could have prevented the incident or improved the situation.

The latest incident has raised questions about the intelligence-gathering capability of the local embassy. However, we should at the same time reconsider the low priority given to Algeria based on the diplomatic perspective taken by the Japanese government to date. Algeria is diplomatically important as a nation rich in natural resources and as a leader among developing nations. Frequent visits are made by top leaders and foreign ministers between Japan and western countries. In contrast, while Algerian dignitaries including the President have paid several visits to Japan, the Japanese Prime Minister has yet to pay a return visit. The previous Foreign Minister Maehara Seiji was the only minister who has visited Algeria, and even that occurred as recently as 2010. Although the duration of his visit was in effect only a few hours, Maehara was accorded a very warm welcome that included a meeting with President Bouteflika. Algeria is a country of high self-esteem that places value in keeping up its honor. That visit by a Japanese foreign minister seemed to herald a new era of Japan-Algeria relations. It is about time Japan revised its conventional diplomatic approach of categorizing relationships in terms of countries with advanced or developing economies, and instead sought to build equal relationships with countries as a genuine partner.

Terrorism is not a word that should be used lightly, yet I think that the latest incident was indeed an act of terrorism that seeks social change through violence. Japan must take a resolute stand against such terrorist acts. However, this is not to say it should shortsightedly pursue a "war against terrorism." Japan is expected to contribute in the areas of social welfare, such as reducing poverty, providing technical assistance and nurturing industries. And the steady accumulation of such activities is exactly what JGC has been doing. Offering dedicated support to such activities, one step at a time, will eventually rid the world of terrorism and in turn benefit Japan in ensuring its security and prosperity.

Jiro Momoi lectures on international relations at Chubu University. This article was first published on January 30, 2013 in the evening edition of the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

アルジェリア人質事件で思う 外交発想の転換を
桃井治郎 / 中部大学 講師(国際関係)

2013年 3月 13日
アルジェリア人質事件で思う 外交発想の転換を 

桃井治郎    中部大学 講師(国際関係)







一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Algerian Hostage Incident Calls for Change in Japan's Perspective on Diplomacy