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Iran’s President Rouhani heads to Japan for second meeting with Abe this year


Iran’s President Rouhani heads to Japan for second meeting with Abe this year

rouhani abe
Photo: Xinhua/Ahmad Halabisaz

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today in Tokyo.

The talks come amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran after the former withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions on Iran’s economy. While Tokyo has expressed willingness to ease tensions between the two, it remains more heavily invested in its historical alliance with the US.

Discussions today on maritime security will present Rouhani with an opportunity to distance Japan from its US ally. Japan has yet to participate in the US-led military coalition patrolling the waters of the Strait of Hormuz, a vital gateway for the world’s oil supply. Rouhani intends to encourage Abe to remain out of the coalition and instead independently deploy forces from the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces to the nearby Gulf of Oman.

If Tokyo indeed deploys such a force and stays out of the Washington-led coalition, today’s talks will mark a small but notable diplomatic success for Tehran. Such a success is unlikely to seriously harm US-Japanese relations. However, the slight could cause Washington to question Tokyo’s commitment to the alliance as it pertains to issues beyond Japan’s regional sphere.

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