Press TV – A new poll shows that over half of voters oppose dispatching Japan’s Self-Defense Forces personnel to the Persian Gulf to join a US-led coalition in a purported mission of protecting maritime shipping lanes in the Middle East.
According to the survey, 57.1 percent of voters said Japan should not send SDF forces to the Middle East, while 28.2 percent said it should.
The nationwide telephone poll was conducted by Kyodo News on Saturday and Sunday.
Japanese government sources said earlier this month that the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is reluctant to participate in the US-led coalition amid concerns about possible damage to Tokyo-Tehran friendly ties.
As a compromise, the sources told Kyodo news agency, Japan is considering sending Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers and P-3C Orion surveillance planes to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait between war-torn Yemen and the Horn of Africa.
“We can’t just do nothing,” a senior Abe administration official said.
The Japanese ships would not be part of the US-proposed mission, though the area of their operations would overlap.
The United States has been trying to persuade its allies into an international coalition with the declared aim of providing “security” for merchant shipping in the Strait of Hormuz — though which about a fifth of all oil consumed globally pass —and other strategic Middle Eastern shipping lanes.
Washington claims Tehran has played a role in two separate attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman in May and June, without providing any credible evidence to support the accusations, which Iran has categorically rejected.
Meanwhile, Japanese media outlets quoted diplomatic sources as saying that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is likely to visit Japan later this month to hold talks with the country’s officials on the situation in the Strait of Hormuz.
The sources said on Sunday that Tehran and Tokyo have been making final arrangements for Zarif’s visit, during which he would meet Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Kono.
Last week, Zarif strictly blasted the idea of foreign military presence in the Persian Gulf, saying, “Military coalitions are failures in advance.”
He stressed that the responsibility for securing the Persian Gulf rested totally with the regional states, not foreign forces, as he met his Qatari counterpart, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, during a trip to Doha.
Earlier this month, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami also warned that a US-led naval coalition “will only increase regional insecurity.”
Zarif’s likely visit to Japan comes as Abe traveled to Iran in June carrying a message from US President Donald Trump for direct negotiations with no preconditions. However, Iran turned down the offer, with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei telling the Japanese PM that the American head of state was not “worthy” of a response.
Abe is also expected to meet and hold talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next month.