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Abe’s Crisis Management Was Appropriate (Atsuyuki Sassa served as the first chief of the Cabinet Secretariat’s National Security Office created in 1986)

h0330 / 2013.01.23 (Wed)

Speaking Out #176

      The year 2013 is the year of the snake under the 12-year Chinese lunar calendar where each year is named after the 12 Chinese zodiac animals in turn. According to the late nationalist thinker Masahiro Yasuoka's zodiac divination, the year of the snake has been the year of turbulence.
      The zodiac divination strangely meets historical facts in snake years in the 20th century. The Russo-Japanese War (in its second year) was seen in the year 1905, the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Great Depression in 1929, the commencement of the Russo-German war, the Sorge spy case in Japan and the outbreak of the Pacific War in 1941, then Prime Minister Yoshida's “bakayaro” (stupid) lower house dissolution (a relatively small event) and the Korean War armistice agreement in 1953, the commencement of U.S. bombing on North Vietnam and the prelude of China's Cultural Revolution in 1965, the Japan Airlines plane hijacking in Dhaka in 1977, Emperor Showa's death, the Berlin wall fall and the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. In 2001, the first snake year in the 21st century, the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States took place.

Algerian hostage crisis in the turbulent year of snake
      In my New Year lectures, I said: “This year is the year of the snake. There may be a Japan-China clash over the Senkaku Islands. Ensure vigilant crisis management.” Then came the Algerian hostage crisis, where 17 Japanese employees of plant builder JGC Corp. were taken hostage along with many other foreigners including Americans, British and French at a natural gas facility in In Amenas.
      This is the first overseas hostage crisis involving multiple Japanese citizens since the 2004 Baghdad hostage incident where Muslim terrorists took hostage three imprudent Japanese NGO members who went to Baghdad in defiance of their surrounding people’s advices against trips to Iraq when one year passed after the Iraqi capital’s fall. These terrorists threatened to kill the Japanese hostages unless Japan withdraws Self-Defense Forces troops.
      In the latest hostage crisis, Algerian government forces implemented military operations against hostage-takers despite foreign governments’ requests for giving top priority to human life. It has become a grave incident where nine Japanese citizens reportedly died, in line with the snake-year divination.

PM Abe exploited advices made nine years ago
      Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has cited successful crisis management as one of his government’s three goals, was on a tour of three Southeast Asian countries -- Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia -- when the Algerian hostage crisis came. When I breathlessly watched Mr. Abe’s televised press conference in Bangkok, I triumphantly slapped my knees in response to his message.
      Mr. Abe based his message on the four key points of national crisis management that I made nine years ago to then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda and then Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe.
      In response to the Baghdad crisis incident, the Koizumi administration gave the following four points: (1) the government cannot tolerate terrorists to take hostage NGO members attempting to help Iraqi refugees and demands the release of the hostages immediately; (2) the government rejects the demand for the withdrawal of SDF troops as they have not fired even a single bullet and have never been involved in what the terrorists claimed as a massacre of old people, infants and women; (3) the three hostages in principle should hold self-responsibility for their actions; and (4) from the viewpoint of respect for human life, the government will surely rescue the hostages even by getting help from the U.S. military.
      While then Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda announced the four points, then Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Abe took the leadership in handling the situation. The stranded Iraqi terrorists released the hostages and the “self-responsibility” became a buzzword. As indicated by this episode, Prime Minister Abe has been tested by fire.

Atsuyuki Sassa served as the first chief of the Cabinet Secretariat's National Security Office created in 1986.