Yomiuri front-paged a report on Prime Minister Abe’s planned meetings with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during his trip to Tehran on June 12-14. Noting that this will be the first time for a Japanese prime minister to hold talks with an Iranian supreme leader, the paper wrote that attention is focused on whether Abe will be able to play a role in reducing tensions between the United States and Iran amid their confrontation over the Iran nuclear deal. The paper speculated that Abe is scheduled to meet with Khamenei on Thursday morning (local time) in Tehran. A senior MOFA official was quoted as saying that Abe’s meeting with Khamenei as a representative of Western nations in itself is significant. According to the paper, Foreign Minister Kono will separately meet with his Iranian counterpart Zarif on June 12 in Tehran. Noting that Abe expressed willingness to contribute to peace and stability in the Middle East through his visit to Iran during his telephone conversation with President Trump on Tuesday, the paper conjectured that the President is probably hoping that Abe’s trip to Tehran will help reduce the tensions between the United States and Iran. The paper added that State Department Spokesperson Ortagus reportedly told the press on Monday that there is no difference between the United States and its allies on the objective of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Mainichi ran an extensive inside-page story on Abe’s visit to Iran starting today, saying that attention is focused on whether he will be able to mediate dialogue between the United States and Iran by utilizing Japan’s friendly relations with both nations.
Nikkei also ran an extensive report, saying that although Abe will try to ease the tensions between the United States and Iran, it remains to be seen whether he will be able to open up a line of communication between the two nations immediately. The paper speculated that the premier is eager to ease the tensions out of concern that the situation surrounding Iran could have an impact on his handling of the government because the Japanese economy will be affected considerably if Iran takes hardline measures such as a blockade of the Strait of Hormuz.
In a related development, NHK reported this morning that Foreign Minister Kono met with his German counterpart Maas in Sweden on Tuesday evening (Japan time). Maas had just visited Tehran on the previous day and met with President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif. He briefed Kono on the current situation in Iran. Kono reportedly voiced concern about tensions in the Middle East and explained that Prime Minister Abe “took the risk” of embarking on a visit to Iran. The two ministers agreed that easing tensions in the Iran situation is essential for Middle East peace.