By staff and agency

Shinzo Abe considering visit to Iran

May 24, 2019

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering a visit to Iran as early as mid-June.

According to Reuters, NHK national television said on Friday that Abe is likely to discuss his plans with U.S. President Donald Trump when the latter visits Japan from Saturday and a final decision may rest on the results of that.

No Japanese prime minister has visited Iran since 1978.

Asked about the state of preparations for such a visit, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denied the report.

“Our country has traditionally had friendly relations with Iran,” he said, adding that Japan hoped to be able to contribute to peace and stability in the region.

Japan was a major buyer of Iranian oil for decades before the sanctions.

Last November, the U.S. enforced sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic’s banking and energy sector. However, it granted waivers to eight countries, including Japan, allowing them to temporarily continue buying Iranian oil without facing U.S. sanctions.

The White House, however, said in a statement issued on April 22 that the U.S. president decided not to renew the waivers for the eight major buyers of Iranian oil.

Abe met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tokyo on May 16.

“Japan is concerned about surging tensions surrounding the Middle East,” Abe said.

During his visit to Japan, Zarif said Iran was committed to its obligations under the international nuclear deal despite the U.S. withdrawal from the landmark agreement. He called the reimposition of U.S. sanctions “unacceptable”.

According to the Kyodo News agency, Zarif said that there is no possibility for negotiations with the U.S.

“This is the first time in history that a bully is telling everybody else, important countries, that ‘I’m going to punish you if you observe something that I do not like,” he said.

“Let us assume that a bully is standing in a cross section on the street and telling everybody, ‘If you don’t pass the red light, I’m going to beat you.’ This is exactly what the U.S. is telling them,” he exemplified.

On May 8, Iran officially announced that its “strategic patience” has come to an end as the remaining parties to the JCPOA have failed to compensate for the reimposition of sanctions against Iran by the Trump administration. 

In the first step, Iran announced that it stops selling stockpiles of enriched uranium and heavy water for 60 days. However, Iran warned if a conclusion is not reached in this time period, it will take other measures step by step and will accelerate its uranium enrichment activities.

Under the JCPOA, Iran’s stockpile of low enriched uranium is capped at 300kg and heavy water reserve at 130 tons.

“This announcement is for 60 days. We have announced to the other side, the five countries [Germany, France, UK, Russia and China], that if they come to the negotiating table in 60 days and we reach a conclusion and safeguard our main interests which are oil [sale] and banking relations, we will return to the previous situation of May 7, 2019,” President Hassan Rouhani told a cabinet meeting on May 8.

NA/PA

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