http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/21/world/middleeast/video-isis-japanese-hostages.html?_r=0AMAMI, Japan - A video posted online Tuesday showing a masked militant threatening to kill two kneeling Japanese men has confronted Japan with the same sort of hostage nightmare already faced by the United States and other nations. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to try to save the men, while also saying he would not give in to intimidation.
The crisis could also create a different sort of challenge for Mr. Abe, who was traveling in the Middle East when the video appeared. Political analysts said the images of the young Japanese men, dressed in the same kind of orange jumpsuits worn by hostages who were beheaded in previous videos, could mean trouble for Mr. Abe, by turning Japan's deeply pacifist public against his pursuit of a more active role for Japan in global security issues.
The video, posted by extremists of the Islamic State, showed the two Japanese men, identified as Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa, kneeling on a rocky hillside with the knife-wielding militant standing between them. The militant appeared to be reading a prepared statement, demanding that Tokyo pay a ransom of $200 million within 72 hours.
The militant linked the ransom demand to an offer that Mr. Abe had made on Saturday, promising nonmilitary aid to nations aligned against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Mr. Abe pledged $200 million to help shore up the government of Iraq and to assist refugees in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon who have fled the Islamic State's rise.
"To the Japanese public, just as how your government has made the foolish decision to pay 200 million to fight the Islamic State, you now have 72 hours to pressure your government in making a wise decision by paying the 200 million to save the lives of your citizens," the masked man said in the video, speaking in English with what sounded like a British accent. "Otherwise, this knife will become your nightmare."
The masked man's voice, manner and attire were similar to those of a person seen in earlier videos showing the beheadings of two Americans, James Foley and Steven J. Sotloff, and two Britons, David Cawthorne Haines and Alan Henning. The militant did not specify a currency for the ransom demand, but a subtitle in Arabic said it was for dollars.
Both the United States and Britain say they refuse to pay ransoms. While Japan has paid in the past, officials and analysts said that it had appeared to be less willing lately, and that it was highly unlikely to pay $200 million, a figure they said was set unrealistically high to make a political point.
The main government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, told reporters in Tokyo, "Our country will not be intimidated by terrorism, and there is no change to our policy of contributing to the international community's fight against terrorism."