Trump: US does not seek ‘regime change’ in Iran
Abe: Japan to do its best to ease tensions
US President Donald Trump said on Monday a deal with Iran on its nuclear program was possible.
"I really believe that Iran would like to make a deal, and I think that's very smart of them, and I think that's a possibility to happen," Trump said during a news conference with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.
Speaking after summit talks with Abe, Trump seemed at pains to dial down tensions by saying that the United States does not seek "regime change" in Iran.
Iran "has a chance to be a great country, with the same leadership. We're not looking for regime change, I want to make that clear. We're looking for no nuclear weapons," said the president.
He had earlier opened the door to negotiations with Tehran, saying: "If they'd like to talk, we'd like to talk also."
Iranian officials have said they have no interest in communicating with the White House under pressure.
The United States has deployed a carrier strike group and bombers to the Mideast region and an extra 1,500 troops to the Persian Gulf amid growing friction with Iran after Trump pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal and later reinstated tough sanctions. The deployment has prompted fears of a conflict.
Trump, on a four-day visit to Japan, appeared to give backing to his host Abe to mediate, amid reports the Japanese prime minister is considering a trip to Tehran to negotiate.
"I know for a fact that the prime minister is very close with the leadership of Iran... nobody wants to see terrible things happen, especially me," Trump said before the summit.
"The prime minister's already spoken to me about that and I do believe that Iran would like to talk.
During his joint news conference with Trump, Abe said Japan would do what it can on the Iran issue.
"Peace and stability of the Middle East is very important for Japan and the United States and the international community as a whole," Abe said.
"Going forward, there should be close cooperation between Japan and the US so that these tensions surrounding Iran can be mitigated and alleviated," he said in his response to a question about what he aimed to achieve from his potential trip to Iran.
If the trip were to go ahead, it would be the first visit by a Japanese premier since 1978 when PM Takeo Fukuda had visited Iran. This year also marks the 90th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Iran.
Japan was a major buyer of Iranian oil for decades before the US sanctions – which Trump said were taking effect.
"The oil [flows from Iran] is essentially dried up. I am not looking that to hurt Iran at all. I am looking to have Iran [saying] no nuclear weapons," Trump said.
AFP, Reuters, AP and S&P Global contributed to this story.