National / Politics

Abe considering Iran visit in June amid worsening tit-for-tat between Tehran and Washington

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering visiting Iran in June for talks with its leadership in a bid to help ease escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, government sources said Friday.

Abe is expected to make a final decision after consulting with U.S. President Donald Trump, who is scheduled to arrive in Japan on Saturday as a state guest.

If realized, Abe will be the first sitting Japanese prime minister in about four decades to visit Iran. Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda visited the Middle Eastern country in 1978.

As Japan has traditionally maintained amicable ties with Iran, Abe hopes to encourage Tehran to keep its commitments under a 2015 international nuclear deal, according to the sources.

Abe expressed his concern about the U.S.-Iran standoff but offered to work with Tehran during a meeting last week in Tokyo with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Iran said in early May it plans to hold more enriched uranium than allowed under the nuclear deal initially sealed with the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia and China. Tehran has set a 60-day deadline to negotiate new terms.

The announcement came as the Trump administration has been hardening its stance on Iran, pulling out of the nuclear deal and reinstating crippling sanctions. Washington has sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf, ratcheting up tensions.

Tokyo, a longtime U.S. security ally, has been put in a difficult position.

The United States ended its sanctions waivers granted to Japan and other buyers of Iranian oil. Iran has traditionally been one of the major oil exporters to resource-poor Japan.