“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 the stability, security and peace of this region,” said Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, in an exclusive interview with Japan's public broadcaster NHK on Wednesday, during his visit to Tokyo.
In October, Japan said it planned to send a naval force to Middle East waters to guard ships supplying Japan but declined to join any US coalition to protect merchant vessels.
The Tokyo government is expected to seek the cabinet approval by the end of the year to send an SDF destroyer and a patrol plane to the region, government sources have said, according to Japanese media, Presstv reported.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that the Gulf of Oman, which lies on the northern edge of the Arabian Sea, or the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, have been picked as potential locations for the SDF.
Regional tensions have intensified after attacks earlier this year on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf, and a strike on Saudi oil facilities. The United States has blamed Iran for the incidents. Iran has denied the allegations, saying it attaches high significance to the security of the strategic region.
Elsewhere in his interview, Araqchi blamed the US for escalating tensions in the region, adding that Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers and its “maximum pressure” policy were fueling regional tensions.
He said that Iran will take further steps to scale back its commitments under the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), if it could not reap the benefits of the agreement.
“If Iran cannot benefit from the JCPOA, there is every possibility for any measure to be taken by Iran. It depends on the situation,” he said.
US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the JCPOA last year and re-imposed the harsh sanctions against Tehran that had been lifted under the deal.
In response to the US’ measures and the failure of the European parties to the JCPOA to guarantee Iran’s trade, Tehran took certain retaliatory measures and rowed back on some of its commitments.
It, however, stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as the European signatories — France, Britain and Germany — find practical ways to shield mutual trade from the US sanctions.
President Rouhani to visit Japan later in Dec.
Meanwhile, an Iranian government official said that President Hassan Rouhani is considering stopping by Japan during his trip to Malaysia for an international conference sometime in mid-December.
Mahmoud Vaezi, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian president, told reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet session on Wednesday that President Rouhani will first visit Malaysia and will then depart for Japan.
He said the visit comes in response to an invitation by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the latter’s visit to Tehran in June, adding that the visit will most likely take place later this month.
Back in June, Abe visited Iran on a first by a Japanese premier to Tehran in more than 40 years, with a plan to help ease tensions between the Islamic Republic and the United States.
Abe said in his meeting with Iranian officials that Japan seeks to play a maximum role to prevent tensions, stressing “this has been the focus of my trip to Iran.”
Iran says it has not shut the door on talks but reaffirmed its position that there will be no negotiations unless the US returns to the nuclear deal and lifts all sanctions on Iran.
“We have no choice other than resistance and steadfastness in the face of those who impose sanctions, but we have not shut the door to negotiation either,” President Rouhani said during an address in Tehran on Wednesday.
“We believe that wrongful and oppressive sanctions should be lifted first, and then the issue of negotiation can be addressed,” he added.