Japanese PM wriggles on horns of a dilemma

The hostage crisis in Peru has been complicated immeasurably by the unique relationship between Lima and Tokyo, and the domestic agenda of the Prime Minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto. At the emergency summit in Toronto at the weekend he "reaffirmed his full confidence" in Peru's handling of the situation, a curiosity, since last week he was telling his own people the opposite. What was clearer than ever was the Tupac Amaru's cunning in choosing the residence of the Japanese ambassador for the drama.

To Peru, Japan is more than just a rich trading partner: it is its biggest foreign benefactor, and the ancestral home of tens of thousands of its people, up to and including its president.

More than 96bn yen (pounds 500m) of development loans are tied up in Peru.

More importantly, from the Tupac Amaru's point of view, Japan has a poor record of crisis management, a squeamishness about the sufferings of its citizens abroad and a history of caving in to terrorism. Of all Peru's friends, Japan was always going to be least tolerant of a hard line and with most leverage to apply, in terms of supplementing its aid packages or withdrawing them. "Fujimori certainly knows that if he decides to pull a Rambo against Tokyo's wishes, the money pipeline from Japan will be shut down instantly," said John Neuffer, senior research fellow at Mitsui Marine Research.

Apart from the ambassador, the 72 hostages include employees of some of Japan's biggest corporations.

During his 12 months in power Mr Hashimoto has created an image as a dynamic leader, in contrast with his predecessor, who was paralysed by a number of disasters in 1995, including the Kobe earthquake and Tokyo subway gas attack.

Last year Mr Hashimoto supervised talks with the US on reducing bases on Okinawa and since his re-election in October he has presented himself as the aggressive champion of administrative and financial reform. But in the hostage crisis he is almost helpless.

Japan has no special forces able to aid citizens overseas; in any case, its "peace" constitution makes dispatch of troops overseas a political minefield. Mr Hashimoto is in danger of appearing more and more like a bit-player. It was this impression that the summit in Toronto was intended to dispel.

Technically, Mr Hashimoto could have the final say: the ambassador's residence counts as Japanese territory and should a direct assault become the only option (if any harm befell the hostages, for instance), he would be asked for his consent.

If he said no, he would appear culpably weak-kneed; if he said yes, he would have to face the consequences of a shoot-out. However tough his public image, it is a choice which would bring nothing but risk.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before