TOKYO (dispatches) -- A senior official says Iran is opposed to Japan’s plan to dispatch Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to the Middle East to help ensure what Tokyo describes as the safe navigation of commercial vessels.
"We are waiting for Japan to take its final decision. We don’t believe that the presence of any foreign forces in the region would help the stability, security and peace of this region,” said Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, in an exclusive interview with Japan’s public broadcaster NHK on Wednesday, during his visit to Tokyo.
In October, Japan said it planned to send a naval force to Middle East waters to guard ships supplying Japan but declined to join any U.S. mission to patrol the Persian Gulf.
The Tokyo government is expected to seek the cabinet approval by the end of the year to send an SDF destroyer and a patrol plane to the region, government sources have said, according to Japanese media.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that the Gulf of Oman, which lies on the northern edge of the Arabian Sea, or the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, have been picked as potential locations for the SDF.
Regional tensions have intensified after suspicious attacks earlier this year on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf, which the U.S. used as a pretext to send additional troops and warships to the highly volatile region.
In his interview, Araqchi blamed the U.S. for escalating tensions in the region.
An Iranian government official said Wednesday President Hassan Rouhani is considering stopping by Japan during his trip to Malaysia for an international conference sometime in mid-December.
Mahmoud Vaezi, the chief of staff of the Iranian president, told reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet session that President Rouhani will first visit Malaysia and will then depart for Japan.
He said the visit comes in response to an invitation by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the latter’s visit to Tehran in June, adding that the visit will most likely take place later this month.
Back in June, Abe visited Iran on a first by a Japanese premier to Tehran in more than 40 years, with a plan to help ease tensions between the Islamic Republic and the United States.
Abe said in his meeting with Iranian officials that Japan sought to play a maximum role to prevent tensions, stressing "this has been the focus of my trip to Iran.”
Iran says it has not shut the door on talks but reaffirmed its position that there will be no negotiations unless the U.S. returns to the nuclear deal and lifts all sanctions on Iran.