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Rohani Visiting Japan This Week Amid U.S.-Iranian Tensions


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right) and Iranian President Hassan Rohani in Tehran on June 13.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani will make a two-day trip this week to Japan, a U.S. ally which maintains friendly ties with Iran and has previously tried to ease tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Rohani is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on December 20 upon his arrival in Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on December 17.

He will become the first Iranian leader to visit the East Asian country in nearly two decades.

The trip comes after Abe became in June the first Japanese prime minister to travel to Iran in more than 40 years.

Tensions have heightened between Iran and the United States and its allies in the Middle East after President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

"Our country will persistently continue to support diplomatic efforts in cooperation with the United States, Iran, and various other related countries aimed at easing tensions in the Middle East," Suga told a news conference.

The comments come a day after Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi praised Japan's foreign policy, saying it is "based on courage and farsightedness."

"This has been proved many times in historical ties between the two countries," Araqchi said, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Rohani’s visit comes as the Japanese government is expected to soon finalize a plan to dispatch the Japanese Navy to the Middle East to help ensure the safe navigation of ships.

However, Japanese media reported that the country does not plan to take part in a U.S.-led coalition in the Strait of Hormuz, the world's most important oil transit route.

Citing a draft plan, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported that the Japanese deployment will be sent to the Gulf of Oman, the northern part of the Arabian Sea, and Bab el-Mandeb, a strait connecting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Iranian officials have rejected the presence of foreign forces in the region, saying it would create insecurity for oil and shipping.

With reporting by dpa and Reuters
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