Nine Japanese nationals have joined ISIS, Reuters reported Friday.
The news came from Japan’s former air force chief, Toshio Tamogami, who said he was informed of the development by Israel’s foreign ministry director-general earlier this month. The director-general, Nissim Ben Shitrit, formerly served as Israel’s ambassador to Japan.
The Japanese government has not confirmed this information, and Tamogami himself said he knows nothing beyond the number of alleged Japanese defectors. The meeting between Tamogami and Shitrit reportedly took place on Sept. 12.
Tamogami was fired from his air force position in 2008 for publicly defending Japan’s military aggression during World War II, having written that “it is a false accusation to say [Japan] was an aggressor nation,” instead blaming American President Franklin Roosevelt and Chinese Government Chairman Chiang Kai-shek. Tamogami had served for less than two years when he was dismissed. He now leads the right-wing political group Ganbare Nippon, which he hopes to be a “pro-Japan” counter to pro-Chinese and pro-American politicians in Japan.
ISIS captured a Japanese citizen, Haruna Yukawa, in northern Syria in August, suspecting him of espionage. Yukawa’s story is a long and strange one–after a midlife crisis involving attempted self-castration, he set up a fake “private military company” and set off for Syria. He befriended rebels in the Free Syrian Army, and traveled through Iraq and Turkey before his capture. Despite being a self-styled mercenary, Yukawa had no formal military training and didn’t know how to properly fire a gun. The terrorists later released a video of ISIS combatants interrogating Yukawa, bloodied and on the ground. (RELATED: ISIS-Inspired Group Beheads French Tourist)
Before his sojourns in the Middle East, Yukawa had attended Ganbare Nippon meetings in Japan, partially to help fundraise for his new company, and even had himself photographed with Tamogami.
While Japan supports the U.S.-led airstrikes against ISIS, thus far it has agreed only to provide humanitarian aid, promising $25.5 million earlier this week. Since World War II, Japan has had an explicit policy of pacifism written into its constitution: “Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”
Earlier this summer, however, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a “reinterpretation” of the passage, saying that it allows for military action alongside allies in the name of “collective self-defense.” However, the Japanese government has yet to indicate that it plans to rely on this new interpretation to assist military efforts against ISIS.
According to U.S. Armed Forces Pacific Commander Admiral Samuel Locklear, about 1,000 people from the region stretching from India to the Pacific Ocean have joined ISIS.