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Japan seeks Jordan aid over hostage

Japan has sought help from Jordan and other countries in its race to save a hostage held by the extremist Islamic State (IS) group, with no signs of progress on securing his release.

The chief government spokesman refused direct comment on the contents of talks with Jordan, where a Japanese envoy is coordinating regional efforts to save hostage Kenji Goto.

IS said in an online video on January 20 that it had two Japanese hostages and would kill them within 72 hours unless it paid 200 million US dollars (£133 million).

Over the weekend, a new, unverified video showed a still photo of Mr Goto, a 47-year-old journalist, holding a picture of what appears to be the body of fellow hostage Haruna Yukawa.

It included a recording of a voice claiming to be Mr Goto, saying his captors want a prisoner exchange instead of ransom.

Asked if the latest demand, which brings Jordan into the picture, makes the situation more complex, government spokesman Yoshihide Suga avoided a straight answer. But he said, "Naturally, Jordan has its own thoughts."

"The government is doing its utmost as the situation is still developing," he said. "We are seeking co-operation from every possible party toward a release (of the remaining hostage)."

Japanese officials have indicated they are treating the video released over the weekend as authentic and thus accepting the likelihood that Mr Yukawa, a 42-year-old adventurer captured in Syria last summer, was killed.

Mr Suga said: "It was an extremely dastardly act."

In Amman, Yasuhide Nakayama, the Japanese deputy foreign minister in charge of the crisis, emerged from meetings with no fresh progress to report.

"Due to the nature of is problem, please understand why I cannot disclose information such as with whom I had meetings," he said. Mr Nakayama vowed to "absolutely not give up until the end."

The Associated Press could not verify the contents of the weekend video message, which differed from earlier videos released by IS, which now holds a third of both Syria and Iraq.

News of the likely killing of Mr Yukawa drew international condemnation, and outrage in Japan. Mr Goto is thought to have been seized in late October after going there to try to rescue him.

Some in Japan are critical of the two men for taking such risks. Some Japanese also are criticising Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for pursuing a more assertive foreign policy, saying it may have contributed to the crisis.

Mr Abe has pushed to expand the role for Japan's troops - one that has remained strictly confined to self-defence under the pacifist constitution adopted after the nation's defeat in the Second World War.

While on a visit to the Middle East earlier this month, Mr Abe announced 200 million US dollars in humanitarian aid to the nations fighting the militants.

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