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Iranian foreign minister likely to visit Japan in late August to discuss situation in strategic Strait of Hormuz

Kyodo

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is likely to visit Japan this month for talks on the situation in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, it was learned Sunday from diplomatic sources.

Tehran and Tokyo have been making final arrangements for Zarif to visit in the later part of this month for talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Kono, according to the sources. He last visited Japan in May.

Iran is expected to communicate its position of opposing a U.S.-led coalition to protect shipping in the strait from Iranian military forces.

The coalition plan, called the Maritime Security Initiative, is being considered in the wake of attacks on two oil tankers — one of them operated by a Japanese shipping firm — near the Strait of Hormuz in June. The United States has blamed Iran for the incidents.

Tehran asserts that the main responsibility for protecting the strait and the Persian Gulf rests mainly with Iran and neighboring countries, insisting that foreign involvement is not necessary.

Washington has urged Japan to consider taking part in the coalition. Tokyo is exploring what role it can play in safeguarding ships in the Middle East while not impairing its long-standing friendship with Iran.

In July, the Iranian government informed countries including Japan, South Korea, the U.K., France and Germany via diplomatic channels that it does not welcome the coalition, saying it would “not help alleviate tension.”

The Japanese and Iranian governments held a vice foreign minister-level consultation in Tehran on Saturday. Abe and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are expected to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September.

Abe visited Iran in June, becoming the first Japanese leader to do so since the Islamic Revolution four decades ago, but failed to achieve any breakthrough.

The trip, apparently aimed at diffusing tensions between Washington and Tehran, was overshadowed by the tanker attacks, which happened during Abe’s two-day visit.