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Japan PM may cut short Asia trip due to hostage crisis

January 18, 2013

TOKYO: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has cancelled part of his trip in Southeast Asia, his first overseas trip since taking office, and is considering flying home early due to the hostage crisis in Algeria, Japan’s top government spokesman said today.

Algerian forces stormed a desert gas complex to free hundreds of hostages, including Japanese, but 30 were killed in the assault along with at least 11 of their Islamist captors, an Algerian security source told Reuters.

“The action of Algerian forces was regrettable,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, adding Japan had not been informed of the operation in advance.

Three Japanese workers of Japanese engineering firm JGC Corp have been confirmed safe but 14 others remained unaccounted for, he said.

Speaking after the government’s taskforce meeting on the crisis, Suga said the prime minister had cancelled a luncheon meeting with Japanese residents in Indonesia to focus on the Algeria hostage crisis.

“He is considering coming back home right after a summit meeting (with his Indonesian counterpart),” Suga said.

Local organisers said Abe had also cancelled a planned policy speech due later in the day which he was expected to use to push for closer ties in Southeast Asia. There was no confirmation from Japanese officials nor any word on whether he might deliver it at another time.

An official with the organisers, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, gave no reason for the cancellation but roads around the venue hotel in central Jakarta remain flooded after heavy rains hit the Indonesian capital this week.

Japan will coordinate with the United States, Britain and France at ambassador levels to jointly ask Algeria to cooperate in confirming safety of hostages first thing on Friday morning local time, Suga said.

A source with knowledge of Abe’s schedule said the prime minister would return to Tokyo later on Friday after a summit meeting and a subsequent news conference.

- Reuters


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