National / Politics

Defense Minister Taro Kono conveys concerns to Iranian counterpart over rising tensions

Kyodo

Defense Minister Taro Kono spoke by phone Tuesday with his Iranian counterpart, Amir Hatami, conveying to him Japan’s concerns over rising tensions in the Middle East.

“80 percent of Japan’s crude oil imports come through the Strait of Hormuz. The stability of the region is directly connected to Japan’s energy security,” Kono told reporters after their conversation.

Despite a long history of diplomatic ties, Japanese and Iranian defense ministers had never had any form of bilateral talks prior to the telephone conversation, according to the Japanese Defense Ministry.

Kono, a former foreign minister who assumed his current post in a Cabinet reshuffle last month, said he had also called on the country to play a constructive role in fostering peace and stability in the region. The telephone talks were said to have been held at the request of Tehran.

Drone attacks on key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia in September and the “Hormuz Peace Initiative,” a plan that Iran has advocated to ensure the safety of the strait, were other issues discussed by the two ministers, Kono said, although he declined to go into detail.

Kono said he welcomed the request for talks as he believed it was important to build a relationship where they can “exchange views frankly” amid the tense situation in the Middle East.

Japan has tried to balance its traditional amicable ties with Iran and its relationship with the United States, which has blamed Tehran for the drone attacks.

Hatami congratulated Kono on his new post, according to the ministry.