Monday 20 January 2020
News ID: 73737
Publish Date: 09 December 2019 - 21:48
TOKYO (Dispatches) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday his country is arranging a visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani because it wants to play a greater role in resolving a nuclear impasse between Tehran and Washington and in relieving tensions in the Middle East, the source of more than 80% of Japan’s oil.
Japan, a U.S. ally that has traditionally had friendly relations with Iran, seeks to serve as a mediator between the U.S. and Iran, a role that is also expected by the international community, Abe said.
He did not give details of the visit. Local media have reported that it is being arranged for later this month, before or after Rouhani’s planned visit to Malaysia to attend an Islamic leaders’ conference.
Tensions have escalated between Tehran and Washington since U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision last year to withdraw from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Abe, who has developed friendly ties with Trump, traveled to Iran in June in an unsuccessful effort to encourage Iran and the U.S. to hold talks to reduce tensions. Sanctions imposed by Washington on Iran which block it from selling crude oil abroad have gradually reduced Tehran’s commitment to the nuclear deal.
"Japan will do its utmost to relive tension in the region and stabilize the situation through persistent efforts to hold a dialogue,” Abe said. "From the point of view of energy security, it is only natural for Japan to play a role to contribute to the peace and stability in the Middle East, while securing safe navigation for Japanese vessels.”
Abe’s government is also set to approve a contentious plan to send its military to the Middle East to ensure the safety of Japanese vessels transporting oil from the region. Iran has expressed its opposition to the plan.
The Japanese troop dispatch, however, will not be part of a U.S.-led coalition protecting Middle East waterways, officials said.
Sending warships to areas of military tension is a highly sensitive issue in Japan, where the pacifist post World War II constitution strictly limits the use of force. Abe, however, has gradually expanded Japan’s military role in recent years.
In June, a Japanese-operated tanker was attacked in the Gulf of Oman. Washington said Iran was responsible and urged Japan to join the U.S.-led military initiative.
The United States has cited such mysterious attacks which have also targeted Iranian oil tankers to send more troops and military assets to the volatile Persian Gulf region.   
The escalation has seen thousands of additional troops and heavy military equipment deployed to Saudi Arabia, with President Donald Trump wasting no time to make it clear that Riyadh has undertaken to pay "100 percent of the cost” of the deployment.

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