Japan expresses concern over mounting tensions in Persian Gulf

TOKYO, May 16 (Xinhua) — Japan on Thursday expressed its concern over mounting tensions in the Persian Gulf related to hostilities between the United States and Iran over an international nuclear agreement.

At the outset of a meeting with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the issue was become increasingly more tense.

“We are concerned that the situation in the Middle East is getting extremely tense,” Abe was quoted as saying at the start of their talks, adding that Japan wanted to continue to maintain and develop amicable ties with Iran.

Zarif, for his part, said that the two countries are very important partners and have traditionally had friendly ties. He said it was necessary due to the current situation to discuss with Abe a number of relevant issues.

Abe, meanwhile, said that it was his hope that Iran would stick to an international nuclear accord inked in 2015, to which Zarif said that Iran’s countermeasures do not run contrary to the framework of the pact.

Zarif’s visit to Tokyo comes following the United States sending a carrier strike force and B-52 bombers to the Gulf after Iran said it plans to keep more enriched uranium than is permitted under the pact.

In response, Iran said that it would suspend some of its commitments under the deal, of which the U.S. pulled out of in 2018.

United States President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the international nuclear deal inked between Iran and six major powers and restored sanctions against Tehran that were scarped under the 2015 deal.

In a separate meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, Zarif said that Tehran had been exercising maximum restrain in spite of the recent escalation by the United States, which he described as “unacceptable.”

The Iranian Foreign Minister told Kono that Iran’s commitment to the deal remained steadfast and that Tehran was seeking support from the international community to help maintain the accord.

Zarif told Kono, however, that Iran would “certainly defend ourselves and respond to any threat against our national security.”

While again agreeing on the importance of maintaining the nuclear pact, Kono, also expressing concern about the heightening tensions, said Japan would “spare no efforts to ease tensions and try to resolve outstanding issues.”

“It is essential to maintain this scheme, not only for our bilateral relations but also for the international non-proliferation regime and peace and stability in the Middle East,” Kono went on to say.

On April 23, the Japanese government said it would consider steps to avoid the nation’s energy supply from being overly disrupted by the U.S. ending waivers on sanctions on oil imports from Iran by Japan and other countries.

The United States said it would end waivers granted since November on May 2 that have been applicable to certain countries including Japan to import oil from Iran.

Japan said the move by Washington aimed at exerting more pressure on Tehran to end its nuclear program would be met by measures to ensure Japan’s energy supply.

The decision by the United States to end the sanction waivers will be a nuisance and a potential economic burden for resource-poor Japan, as the country is heavily reliant on crude imports from overseas.

Japan’s total crude oil imports are comprised of 5 percent of oil coming from Iran due to favorable prices, according to industry insiders.

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