Iran foreign minister due in Japan this month

Mainichi – Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will visit Japan later this month, it was announced Monday, with diplomatic sources saying the two sides are likely to discuss the situation in the Hormuz Strait.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi said Zarif will discuss bilateral cooperation and other issues during his visits to Japan and China this month. He did not reveal the exact dates.

Tehran and Tokyo have been making final arrangements for Zarif to hold talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Kono, according to the sources. He last visited Japan in May.

The Iranian side is expected to communicate its stance opposing a U.S.-led coalition to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz from Iranian military forces.

The coalition plan, called the “Maritime Security Initiative,” is being considered in the wake of attacks on two oil tankers — one of them operated by a Japanese shipping firm — near the Strait of Hormuz in June. The United States has blamed Iran for the incidents.

Tehran asserts that the main responsibility for protecting the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf is with Iran and neighboring countries, insisting that foreign involvement is unnecessary.

Washington has urged Japan to consider taking part in the coalition. Tokyo is exploring what role it can play in safeguarding ships in the Middle East while not impairing its traditional friendship with Iran.

In July, the Iranian government informed countries including Japan, South Korea, Britain, France, and Germany via diplomatic channels that it does not welcome the coalition, saying it would “not help alleviate tension.”

The Japanese and Iranian governments held a vice foreign minister-level consultation in Tehran on Saturday. Abe and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are expected to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September.

Abe visited Iran in June, becoming the first Japanese leader to do so since the Islamic Revolution four decades ago, but failed to achieve any breakthrough.

The trip, apparently aimed at diffusing tensions between Washington and Tehran, was overshadowed by the tanker attacks, which happened during the two-day visit.