The following column is contributed by Yukio Okamoto, a diplomatic critic who served as an adviser on Iraq reconstruction to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
The hostage crisis involving freelance journalist Kenji Goto saw the worst outcome, one that is not only brutal and despicable, but also extremely cunning.
A new video of what is believed to be the killing of the 47-year-old Goto by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) indicated that the militant group aimed to cut Japan off from the international community's efforts against terrorism and divide opinions among the Japanese public.
On TV, we've already heard some critics make comments against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's vow not to give in to terrorism, describing it as a "hard-line" attitude, even though this is precisely what he should do.
One critic said, "Japan should be careful about its use of even a single word," while another emphasised, "Japan should not work together with the United States and Europe anymore." These comments, however, were exactly what the terrorists wanted to hear.
Will Japan maintain a stern, uncompromising posture against terrorists in cooperation with the international community? Or will the nation be careful about its own behaviour, bow and hold its breath so that it won't offend terrorists? The latest hostage incident could become a decisive moment for the nation.
Japan will face a high cost if it kowtows to terrorists. When 10 Japanese were killed in a hostage crisis in Algeria two years ago, for example, terrorists reportedly looked for Japanese when they broke in. They apparently regarded Japan as a nation that would easily capitulate and pay ransoms.
Japan will put its nationals in greater danger if it gives in to terrorists' threats.
In the new video released Sunday, ISIL addressed the Japanese government and made reference to Japanese people by using extraordinary expressions: "This knife will ... cause carnage wherever your people are found." ISIL also described itself as "an entire army thirsty for your blood."
Thus, ISIL threatened an individual country, which it had never done before against members of the international coalition of the willing against the jihadist group.