Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed on Monday that Tokyo wants to make every effort to reduce tension between the United States and Iran before responding to an expected US request to send its navy to guard strategic waters off Iran.
Japanese media have said a US proposal to boost surveillance of Middle East oil shipping lanes off Iran and Yemen, where the United States says Iran and its proxies have carried out tanker attacks, could be on the agenda of Abe’s talks with US national security adviser John Bolton.
Abe said that before making a decision on joining the United States, Japan would like to fulfill what it sees as a unique role it has to play in reducing tension.
“We have a long tradition of friendship with Iran and I’ve met with its president any number of times, as well as other leaders,” Abe told a news conference a day after his coalition’s victory in an election for parliament’s upper house.
“Before we make any decisions on what to do, Japan would like to make every effort to reduce tensions between Iran and the United States.”
Japan needed to gather information on what the United States is thinking and what it hoped to accomplish, Abe said, adding that the two allies remained in close contact.
Bolton, who heads to South Korea after Japan, met Japanese national security adviser Shotaro Yachi and Foreign Minister Taro Kono and later described his talks with Kono as “useful”.
“We had a very productive discussion, we talked about a very wide range of issues,” Bolton told reporters.
Last week, Iran captured a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz in what was the latest escalation in three months of spiraling confrontation with the West that began when new, tighter US sanctions took effect at the start of May.
Washington imposed the sanctions after President Donald Trump pulled out of a deal signed by his predecessor Barack Obama, which had provided Iran access to world trade in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
European countries including Britain have been caught in the middle. They disagreed with the US decision to quit the nuclear deal but have so far failed to offer Iran another way to receive the deal’s promised economic benefits.
Britain was thrust more directly into the confrontation on July 4, when its Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar. Britain accused it of violating sanctions on Syria, prompting repeated Iranian threats of retaliation.
While Iran’s official line is that its capture of the Stena Impero was because of safety issues, it has done little to hide that the move was retaliatory.
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