All national dailies wrote that Foreign Minister Kono met with his Iranian counterpart Zarif in Yokohama last night and called on the Iranian government to abide by the nuclear agreement. They reportedly agreed to continue close communications to ease tensions in the Middle East. The two diplomats apparently exchanged views on the U.S.’s plan to form a coalition to protect critical sea lanes in the region and its reinstatement of economic sanctions centered on a ban on the import of Iranian oil. At the onset of the session, Kono said Japan will continue diplomatic efforts to deescalate tensions, while Zarif noted in reply that dialogue is necessary since both Iran and Japan share a “special interest” in the safety and security of the Persian Gulf and the energy market. The dailies conjectured that the Iranian minister probably asked Japan not to join the U.S.-orchestrated coalition and to resume imports of Iranian oil. Kono reportedly refrained from disclosing to the press the details of what he described as “extremely candid discussions” with the Iranian visitor. Zarif is expected to hold talks with Prime Minister Abe today.
On a related note, Mainichi speculated that the absence of discussion of Operation Sentinel during the summit meeting between President Trump and PM Abe in France on Sunday could indicate that the U.S. leader is losing interest in the plan. An unnamed senior MOFA diplomat said: “President Trump is not fixated on the coalition initiative. He is looking to hold dialogue.”