Iran's foreign minister urges Japan not to join U.S. coalition, source says

The Japan Times

TEHRAN/YOKOHAMA – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif showed opposition to Japan's possible participation in a U.S. coalition to patrol the Strait of Hormuz when he met Wednesday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Yokohama, a diplomatic source said. By conveying Tehran's opposition directly, Iran sent a strong message about the U.S.-led coalition amid intensifying tensions between Iran and the United States over the 2015 nuclear deal. While some countries such as Australia and the U.K. have announced they will take part in the coalition, Japan has remained ambiguous on the matter, caught between its alliance with the United States and traditionally friendly ties with Iran. According to the source, Zarif told Abe that the stationing of foreign military forces in the region would not enhance safety in the Strait of Hormuz and could instead put stability in the Middle East in peril. Zarif and Abe also discussed the situation of Iran's crude oil exports, currently hard-hit by a U.S. embargo.


Abe planning to meet Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani at U.N. General Assembly next month

The Japan Times

YOKOHAMA – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani are planning to meet in late September at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, amid soaring tensions between Washington and Tehran. The news came as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the same day that his country "is not hoping tensions rise further" in the Middle East due to the standoff with the U.S. over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. At the outset of a meeting with Abe in Yokohama, Zarif said "Iran welcomes the Japanese government's role (in trying) to ease tensions in the Middle East." The Japanese leader said "Japan will persistently continue our diplomatic efforts to deal with rising tensions in the Middle East and stabilize the current situation." The meeting follows Zarif's visit Sunday to Biarritz, the venue of a Group of Seven summit in France, where he talked about the issue with French President Emmanuel Macron.


Iran assures Japan of efforts to avoid war amid soaring tensions in Middle East

The Japan Times

NEW YORK – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi on Monday that Tehran will seek to avoid war amid heightened tensions in the Middle East, while expressing appreciation for Tokyo's diplomatic outreach. Meeting Zarif for the first time since becoming foreign minister earlier this month, Motegi voiced serious concern about the situation in the region following recent attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. "We are very much concerned about the grave situation," Motegi told Zarif at the outset of the meeting on the fringes of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. Japan will continue to work toward stabilizing the region, he added. Zarif, meanwhile, took issue with what he called the prevailing view that war could be imminent, in reference to the recent U.S. move to send more troops to Saudi Arabia.


Iran sounds out Japan about possible Hassan Rouhani visit: source

The Japan Times

TEHRAN/TOKYO – Iran relayed to Japan on Tuesday its wish for President Hassan Rouhani to visit the country, a source close to bilateral relations has said. Abbas Araghchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister for political affairs, serving as a special envoy of the president, relayed the message to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a two-day visit to Tokyo from Monday, according to the source. Iran is seen as hoping to realize such a visit at an early date, while Japan is expected to examine the proposal carefully. The development comes after Abe visited Iran in June. He was the first Japanese leader to do so since 1978.


Mideast tanker attacks jolt oil-dependent Asia

The Japan Times

While the violence only directly jolted two countries in the region -- one of the targeted ships was operated by a Tokyo-based company, and a nearby South Korean-operated vessel helped rescue sailors -- it will unnerve major economies throughout Asia. Officials, analysts and media commentators on Friday hammered home the importance of the Strait of Hormuz for Asia, calling it a crucial lifeline, and there was deep interest in more details about the still-sketchy attack and what the United States and Iran would do in the aftermath. In the end, whether Asia shrugs it off, as some analysts predict, or its economies shudder as a result, the attack highlights the widespread worries over an extreme reliance on a single strip of water for the oil that fuels much of the region's shared progress. Japan, South Korea and China don't have enough of it; the Middle East does, and much of it flows through the narrow Strait of Hormuz. This could make Asia vulnerable to supply disruptions from U.S.-Iran tensions or violence in the strait.