Japan, Oman work to defuse United States-Iran tension
Japan is on the same page as Oman in defusing regional tension that involves Iran and the US, and achieving stability in the region is high on its agenda, said a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman.
Ohtaka Masato, assistant foreign minister and director general for press and public diplomacy, was in Oman with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as part of his Middle East visit that also took him to UAE and Saudi Arabia. Abe was also in the sultanate to officially convey his country’s condolences on the demise of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
“We are very closely in touch with the US and Iran, and this enables us to play a vital diplomatic role. As Oman has territorial waters that include the Strait of Hormuz, it is an important country from a geopolitical standpoint. It also has a foreign policy of having good relations with all its neighbours and holds a mediating position. It also maintains friendly relations with Iran,” Masato said.
Asked if he thought the war between the United States and Iran was imminent, Masato was non-committal.
“This is a million-dollar question. I don’t want to make any predictions at this point. I’m always interested in hearing anybody’s views. But I do think that all countries in the region as well as the rest of international community share their wish that serious military confrontation will be avoided. We see signs of self restraint and some countries seem to be discreet but it is important for like-minded countries including Oman to continue diplomatic efforts to push for peaceful means to resolve the issue,” he told Muscat Daily.
He said that any military confrontation that might take place in the region will have profound impact.
“While in the sultanate, Omani and Japanese leaders exchanged views on the current situation and what needs to be done to defuse tension. Our leaders agreed that further escalation of the situation needs to be avoided. Prime Minister Abe mentioned that any military confrontation will have an impact on the peace and stability of not only the region but also the world. I don’t want to go into much detail on what we discussed, but I must say that Japan was the only country from Asia that had been engaging on this issue,” Masato said.
Masato also spoke of Japan’s plans to dispatch naval vessels to the Gulf.
“The deployment of Japanese maritime assets needs to be understood correctly. They are only for information gathering and for self-defence,” he said.
During the visit, the two countries agreed to increase trade in areas including energy.
“The objective of our visit also was to conform strengthening bilateral relations in a wide range of areas, based on the comprehensive partnership towards stability and prosperity,” Masato said. On Japan’s standpoint of the GCC situation in regards to Qatar issues, Masato said, “Japan is closely following the situation in GCC in regards to Qatar tensions but we do feel that consolidation and stronger unity among GCC countries will always be helpful. This will also apply to the current situation and would welcome any mediations,” he said.
Japanese Prime Minister was in the region as tensions spiked after the US assassination of a top Iranian general. Tokyo and Tehran have maintained diplomatic relations for decades.
A handout picture released by the Oman News Agency shows H H Sayyid Fatik bin Fahr al Said (right) receiving Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe upon his arrival in Muscat on January 14 to offer his condolences to the Royal family following the death of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said