Tokyo — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering visiting Iran in June for talks with its leadership to help ease escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, government sources said Friday.
Abe is expected to make a final decision after consulting with U.S. President Donald Trump, who is scheduled to arrive in Japan as a state guest on Saturday.
Abe would be the first sitting Japanese prime minister to visit Iran since Takeo Fukuda in 1978.
As Japan has traditionally maintained amicable ties with Iran, Abe hopes to encourage Tehran to keep its commitments under a 2015 international nuclear deal, according to the sources.
Abe expressed concern about the U.S.-Iran standoff but offered to work with Tehran during a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tokyo last week.
The Japanese government weighed the possibility of Abe visiting Iran last summer but gave up on the idea out of consideration for Washington.
On Friday, Abe met with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton at the prime minister’s office and discussed the situation surrounding Iran, a Japanese government source said.
Iran said earlier this month it plans to produce more low-enriched uranium than allowed under the nuclear deal initially sealed with the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China. Tehran has set a 60-day deadline to negotiate new terms.
The announcement came as the Trump administration has been hardening its stance on Tehran, pulling out of the nuclear deal and reinstating crippling sanctions. Washington has sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf, ratcheting up tensions.
Tokyo, a longtime U.S. security ally, has been put in a difficult position.
The United States has ended its sanctions waivers granted to Japan and other buyers of Iranian oil. Iran has traditionally been one of the major oil exporters to resource-poor Japan.