National / Politics

'Strongly concerned' Japan urges Iran to abide by nuclear deal

Kyodo

Japan urged Iran on Tuesday to stick to a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, expressing its strong concern over Tehran’s recent decision not to adhere to its limits.

“Iran’s latest announcement is disappointing and leaves us strongly concerned,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a regular news conference in Tokyo.

“We ask Iran to return to (observing) its commitments under the agreement immediately and cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he said.

His remarks came after Iran said Sunday it is no longer abiding by uranium enrichment limitations under the agreement, which has been at the heart of rising tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Japan, which is not a member of the accord, has consistently supported the deal in the hope of bringing stability to the Middle East.

Iran has been reeling from economy-crippling sanctions reinstated following the 2018 U.S. withdrawal from the accord. The agreement was designed to reduce Iran’s nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions against the Middle Eastern country.

Stability in the Middle East is vital for Japan, which gets most of its crude oil imports from the region. Tensions have spiked in recent days since the U.S. killing of a top Iranian commander in an airstrike. Tehran has vowed to retaliate.

Japanese business leaders said the tensions between the United States and Iran again underscored the Middle East as a major risk factor to the global economy. They called for restraint from both sides to avert an accidental clash.

“There are so many unforeseeable events going on in the world including the Iran issue so we need to push for dialogues,” Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of the Japan Business Federation, the country’s largest lobby, said at a news conference following a New Year’s party.

Akio Mimura, chief of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said at the same news conference, “Given the possibility that unexpected accidents could happen in the Middle East, we need to seriously discuss and reformulate our energy policy that is dependent on imports from the region.”

Shunichi Kito, president of Japanese refiner Idemitsu Kosan Co., acknowledged the need to make efforts to diversify crude supply sources.

“But the reality is difficult as we need to make substantial investments,” he told reporters at a separate New Year’s party hosted by the Petroleum Association of Japan.

Suga revealed during his news conference that Japan was not notified by the United States of the strike beforehand.

Japan has been seeking to leverage its good relations with the United States and Iran to promote dialogue. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has asked all parties involved to exercise restraint and stressed the importance of diplomacy to prevent the situation from escalating.

Despite the heightened tensions, Japan will go ahead with its plan to send Self-Defense Forces personnel to the Middle East, Defense Minister Taro Kono said Tuesday.

Japan has decided to deploy a destroyer and patrol planes to the region, excluding the Strait of Hormuz near Iran, to gather intelligence to help ensure the safe navigation of Japan-related commercial ships in the Middle East. It will not join a U.S.-led maritime security initiative near the strait, a key waterway for crude oil shipments.