Though the United States is Japan’s most important ally, Tokyo has fostered economic ties with Iran, and Japanese firms had been major buyers of Iranian oil until US sanctions forced them to find other suppliers, Reuters reported.
Citing unidentified government sources, the Yomiuri said Japan was considering a plan to send its Maritime Self-Defense Force (SDF) on information-gathering missions in the areas around the Strait of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb shipping lane between Yemen, Djibouti and Eritrea.
It would also consider including the Strait of Hormuz in the SDF’s sphere of activity if Iran agrees, the paper said.
Asked about the newspaper report, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to mention specific measures that the government was considering ensuring the safety of Japanese vessels.
“As for what kind of steps would be effective to secure the safety of navigation of Japanese ships in the Middle East, we would like to look into the matter from various angles including stable crude oil supply, and Japan’s ties with the United States and Iran,” Suga told a regular news conference.
“As we investigate the issue, we want to keep our principle of maintaining our diplomatic effort for easing tensions and stabilizing the situation in the Middle East.”
Iran has denounced US efforts to set up the coalition and says countries in the region can protect waterways and work toward signing a non-aggression pact.
The Japanese government is set to make a final decision, including whether the plan is feasible, after the United Nations General Assembly later this month, the Yomiuri said.
Suga said arrangements are being made for Prime Minister Abe Shinzo to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month.
The United States has been trying to persuade its allies into an international coalition with the declared aim of providing “security” for merchant shipping in the Strait of Hormuz – through which about a fifth of all oil consumed globally pass – and other strategic Middle Eastern shipping lanes. However, its major allies have so far rejected the request.