Tokyo defended Monday its confiscation of the passport of a Japanese journalist planning to travel to Syria, as the country reels from the beheading of two citizens by Islamist State (ISIS) terrorists.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government took travel documents away from freelance photographer Yuichi Sugimoto, 58, for his own safety, after learning of his plan to cover refugee camps in the war-torn country.
"Islamic State has expressed its resolve to continue killing Japanese," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular press briefing, reports AFP.
"If a Japanese national enters Syria…we have assessed that there is a high risk that the person would face immediate danger to his life, like being captured by ISIL (ISIS) and other Islamic extremists," he said.
Suga said the government had given consideration to both the principle of a free press and the government's responsibility to protect the safety of Japanese nationals in confiscating the document.
Japan reacted in horror to the beheadings of war correspondent Kenji Goto and his friend Haruna Yukawa. Their murders have provoked a measure of soul-searching over the direction of Japanese diplomacy.
The crisis appears to have done little to dent the popularity of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which inched up 1.4 points to 54.2% in a national poll taken Friday and Saturday by Kyodo News.
Some 60.8% of those questioned said they supported the government's handling of the hostage crisis. The telephone survey had valid responses from 1,015 people.
The Japanese government had sought help from Jordan to rescue the two Japanese hostages, who were shown in a video released by the terrorist group late January with a demand for a $200 million ransom.
Days later, the group released a video of Goto holding a photo of Yukawa's headless body, and changed their demand to the release of a woman jihadist on death row in Jordan.
Amman responded by demanding the release of Jordanian airman Maaz al-Kassasbeh, who was held captive by the terrorist group. The extremist group ended up killing all three men.
In response, Jordan executed two Iraqi jihadists, including the female would-be suicide bomber, and accelerated its air strikes on the Islamic State group.