Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reportedly abandoned plans to visit Iran later this month, amid increasing pressure from Washington aimed at isolating Tehran politically and economically.
According to Japanese media reports, Tokyo recently informed Tehran that Abe was cancelling talks with President Hassan Rouhani scheduled for mid-July. Abe’s trip would have marked the first time a Japanese leader had visited Tehran in 40 years.
Washington’s growing hostility towards Iran is believed to have played a deciding factor in the sudden change of travel plans. Openly declaring its desire to cut off Tehran’s oil revenues, the Trump administration is now pursuing a policy of economic strangulation, urging Japan and its other allies to stop buying Iranian crude oil entirely by November 4.
Japan has so far refused to comply with Washington’s demands, although Iranian crude currently only accounts for roughly five percent of the country’s total oil imports. It’s likely that Washington’s request to increase political and economic pressure on Tehran will be a major topic of discussion when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Tokyo for a two-day visit this weekend.
According to government sources who spoke to the Japan Times, Tokyo was still exploring the possibility of Abe visiting Iran, although much would depend on the state of relations between Washington and Tehran.
Still, there’s a chance that Japan will resist Trump’s strong-arming. A spokesman for the Japanese prime minister’s office told Reuters that Abe’s travel plans in the Middle East – where he is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia and Egypt following stops in Brussels and Paris beginning July 11 – had not been finalized yet.
Trump was condemned by Washington’s allies after unilaterally withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in May. Soon after, he announced tough new sanctions targeting the country. The move has jeopardized the future of the landmark 2015 accord –which lifts international sanctions on Tehran in exchange for placing strict controls on the country’s nuclear capabilities. Europe has strenuously objected to the draconian measures, arguing that its firms would lose billions invested in Iran following the removal of sanctions in 2015.