U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty on Tuesday welcomed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's planned visit to Iran, saying U.S. President Donald Trump has great confidence in the Japanese leader and that the U.S. hopes he will have "productive engagements that lead to progress."

The ambassador made the remarks during an exclusive interview with The Japan Times the day before Abe was set to depart for Iran on a three-day trip, amid rising military tensions in the Persian Gulf between Iran and the United States.

"Prime Minister Abe has unique diplomatic access to the leadership of Iran," Hagerty said at the ambassador's official residence in Tokyo. "We are comfortable with Prime Minister Abe speaking with Iranians. And we are hopeful he will have productive engagements that lead to progress."