Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Iran from June 12, the government said Thursday, the first trip to the country by an incumbent Japanese prime minister in over four decades. Abe apparently hopes to mediate between the United States and Iran, and encourage dialogue between them in a bid to ease tensions. He is expected to stress the importance of an international nuclear deal reached in 2015, even as the United States has withdrawn from it and Tehran said last month it would suspend some of its commitments under the accord. The government outlined the plan at a meeting of members of a Lower House steering committee. Abe is scheduled to return to Japan on June 14.
As leader of a country that is a close ally of the United States and also has a long friendship with Iran, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to have his skills tested as a mediator between Washington and Tehran amid rising tensions between them. "Japan is concerned about surging tensions surrounding the Middle East," Abe told Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during their meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Tokyo on May 16, calling on Iran to refrain from provoking the United States and defuse tensions. Zarif visited Japan in a hurry, ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump's four-day trip to the country from Saturday. The Trump administration, which views Iran as an enemy and has imposed economic sanctions on the country, ramped up pressure on Tehran this month by dispatching an aircraft carrier strike group and strategic bombers to the Middle East. Iran countered by announcing its intention to suspend some of its obligations under a 2015 nuclear deal and threatened to close off the Strait of Hormuz, a key channel for global crude oil transportation.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to start his two-day visit to Tehran on Wednesday amid rising military tensions in the Persian Gulf. Abe's planned visit -- the first visit to Iran by an incumbent Japanese prime minister in 41 years -- came to light after he met U.S. President Donald Trump in Tokyo late last month. The timing has prompted some to speculate that Abe may be delivering a message from Trump to Tehran, to try to defuse the crisis over the nuclear deal. But days before the trip, high-ranking Japanese diplomats in Tokyo started emphasizing a somewhat unexpected message likely to cool the developing media frenzy: Abe is not visiting Iran as a mediator nor messenger, and he does not have any quick remedy to end the nuclear crisis. "The primary purpose is to ease tensions and prevent the status quo from deteriorating further. We have no surprise plan," one high-ranking Foreign Ministry official said Friday.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering holding talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani when he visits New York in September to attend a U.N. General Assembly session, government sources said Wednesday. After meeting with Rouhani in Tehran on June 12, Abe told a joint news conference that he would hold another round of talks with the Iranian president at some point in the future. Since returning to power in 2012, Abe has held discussions with Rouhani on the sidelines of General Assembly sessions every year. The sources said the specific meeting schedule would be fixed after the July 21 House of Councilors election. During his three-day visit to Iran through June 14, Abe also met with the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but failed to broker a dialogue between Tehran and Washington.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked Iranian leaders during his Tehran visit to release Americans detained by the country at the request of U.S. President Donald Trump, a Japanese government source said Friday. At least four Americans, including a navy veteran who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, are being detained in Iran. Abe is believed to have requested the releases during his talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday, the source said. It is not known how they responded. As the first Japanese prime minister to visit Iran in 41 years, Abe was hoping to serve as a mediator between Tehran and Washington, with tensions having flared in recent weeks and concern growing about possible inadvertent military clashes in the region.