0644 GMT January 27, 2020
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said that Iran is opposed to Japan’s plan to dispatch its Self-Defense Forces to the Middle East to help ensure the safe navigation of commercial vessels.
"We are waiting for Japan to take its final decision. We don’t believe that the presence of any foreign forces in the region would help stability, security, and peace of this region," said Araqchi in an interview with NHK.
The diplomat noted that he conveyed Iran's stance to Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo in a meeting held in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Referring to the Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE) initiative proposed by Iran’s president in the United Nations General Assembly in September, Araqchi said that Iran’s initiative is aimed at guaranteeing stability, peace, and security in the Persian Gulf region.
Japan has decided to dispatch its Self-Defense Forces to the Strait of Hormuz area instead of joining the US-coalition to protect merchant vessels passing through key Middle Eastern waterways.
Japan says it would not join its ally in the security mission due to its close economic ties with Iran.
Japan’s decision came after several merchant vessels were targeted in the Persian Gulf in May and June. The US blamed Iran for the attacks. Tehran rejected the accusations as baseless.
Tensions between the US and Iran have escalated since Washington’s decision in May last year to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Tehran as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign aimed at forcing it to renegotiate a new deal.
Tensions deteriorated after the US engaged in significant regional military buildup, including by sending an aircraft carrier, a bomber task force, an assault ship, and around 1,500 additional forces to the Middle East.
During the interview, the Iranian official underlined that US policies are the root cause of escalating tensions in the Middle East.
He criticized the US for imposing "maximum pressure" on Iran following its unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, a decision that has put the future of the deal in danger.
The Iranian deputy foreign minister said if Iran cannot benefit from the nuclear deal, the country would certainly take new steps to scale down its commitments to the nuclear deal, including the rejection of the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspections.
Since May, Iran has rowed back on its commitments four times in compliance with articles 26 and 36 of the deal.
Following a visit to China, the Iranian official arrived in Tokyo on Monday and held talks with Japanese prime minister and foreign minister on Tuesday.
Supporting nuclear deal
Abe renewed his country’s support for the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“Japan still supports the JCPOA and will continue its diplomatic role in resolving the problems surrounding this international accord,” Abe said.
He voiced concern over Iran’s departure from some of its nuclear commitments, saying that the deal must be preserved.
Araqchi said Iran is ready to return to the JCPOA and fully implement it if the US lifts all sanctions.