Japan PM to meet Khamenei in a bid to defuse US-Iran Tensions

Khamenei

AFP |

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei later this month with Tokyo hoping to mediate between Washington and Tehran, a report said Sunday.

As tensions intensify between Iran and Japan’s key ally the United States, Abe has reportedly proposed serving as a go-between and is said to be weighing up a state visit to Iran. According to the Mainichi Shimbun report, Abe’s planned meeting with influential Khamenei will be the first such talks between a Japanese premier and Tehran’s supreme leader.

US President Donald Trump said last week he remained open to talks with Tehran during his state visit to Tokyo, appearing to have given the green light to Abe’s plan.

Japan and Iran have kept a good relationship as resource-poor Japan relies heavily on imports of oil from the Middle East, though crude from Iran accounted for just 5.3 percent of the country’s total imports last year.

Abe will also meet Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani before meeting Khamenei during his tour to Iran from June 12 to 14, the newspaper said, citing unnamed government sources.

Trump Pushes Japan to Mediate?

Before Trump flew to Japan, the United States had announced it was sending 1,500 extra troops to the region, adding to the aircraft carrier group and nuclear-capable bomber planes already dispatched.

Trump himself threatened “the official end” of the country if Tehran ever attacked US interests. But last Monday in Tokyo, Trump offered assurances that he can live with the Islamic republic’s government, whose toppling has long been a dream for Washington hardliners.

Read more: Iran enjoys good relations with US, no immediate threats

“We’re not looking for regime change,” Trump said, explaining that he only cared about Iran not achieving nuclear power status. “I do believe that Iran would like to talk, and if they’d like to talk, we’d like to talk also,” Trump added, striking a relatively dovish tone on Iran.

Speaking to Steve Herman, the Voice of America bureau chief for the White House, US President Trump observed that Japanese Prime Minister Abe “is very close to the leadership of Iran”, and concluded that Washington looks forward to resuming talks.

Khamenei has likened negotiations with the Trump administration to “poison” since “they don’t stand by anything”, referring to Washington’s withdrawal from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed by Tehran and world powers.

Japan and Iran have kept a good relationship as resource-poor Japan relies heavily on imports of oil from the Middle East, though crude from Iran accounted for just 5.3 percent of the country’s total imports last year.

Read more: Iran’s “Criminal Acts” Must be dealt with a “Firm and Dissuasive Response”: King Salman

Can Japan bring about Reconciliation?

In an article published by Global Times, editor and senior Japan-focused journalist Chen Yang, concluded that while it is certain that Prime Minister Abe will be welcomed in Tehran, it would be “unnecessary to place too much hope on Japan to participate in dispute settlements between Washington and Tehran.”

Shedding light on Abe’s “diplomacy with a bird’s eye view of the globe” approach, Yang argues that his active approach towards mediating US-Iran relations is largely driven by the need to “demonstrate his diplomatic influence”.

Chen Yang observed, “Abe’s involvement in US-Iran tensions could be a move to safeguard Japan’s interests. Japan depends on the Middle East for its energy resources.”

In an interview with Fars News Agency, senior Iranian military leader Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi banished America’s aggressive posturing by stating that any military confrontation in the Persian Gulf would only result in unbearably heightened oil prices for Washington and its allies.

Read more: Iran’s shifting foreign ties to counter US advance – M K Bhadrakumar

Major General Safavi said, “The first bullet fired in the Persian Gulf will push oil prices to above $100 [a barrel], and $100 oil would not be endurable for America, Europe, and America’s friends like Japan and South Korea.”

AFP with additional input by GVS news desk.


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