Ja­pan shuns a U.S. coali­tion in Mideast

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Business - By MARI YAMAGUCHI

TOKYO — Ja­pan’s gov­ern­ment said Fri­day it has de­cided not to join a U.S. coali­tion to pro­tect com­mer­cial ves­sels in the Mid­dle East but is pre­par­ing to send its own force to en­sure the safe ship­ment of oil to Ja­pan.

Chief Cabi­net Sec­re­tary Yoshi­hide Suga said that Ja­pan will keep co­op­er­at­ing closely with Wash­ing­ton even if it won’t join the ini­tia­tive the U.S. says is aimed at pro­tect­ing com­mer­cial tankers from al­leged Ira­nian at­tacks.

“Peace and sta­bil­ity in the Mid­dle East is ex­tremely im­por­tant for the in­ter­na­tional so­ci­ety, in­clud­ing Ja­pan,” Suga said at a news con­fer­ence.

“Af­ter we stud­ied com­pre­hen­sively what mea­sures can be most ef­fec­tive, we have de­cided to pur­sue our own mea­sures sep­a­rately.”

Ja­pan’s en­ergy needs rely heav­ily on oil im­ports. It has kept friendly ties with Iran and is re­luc­tant to join such a force.

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe has tried to help ease ten­sion be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Tehran.

U.S.-Ira­nian re­la­tions have de­te­ri­o­rated since Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump last year pulled out of the 2015 nu­clear deal be­tween Iran and world pow­ers and re-im­posed sanc­tions that de­te­ri­o­rated the Ira­nian econ­omy. Iran has since be­gun break­ing terms of the deal.

The ten­sions have in­cluded seizures of oil tankers at sea.

Suga said Ja­pan plans to de­ploy war­ships ini­tially for in­for­ma­tion gath­er­ing pur­poses to the Gulf of Oman, the North­ern Ara­bian Sea and nearby wa­ters, but did not in­clude the Strait of Hor­muz at the cen­ter of the U.S.-Iran ten­sion.

War­ships are ex­pected to Tim­ing of a dis­patch hasn’t been de­cided.

Send­ing war­ships to ar­eas of mil­i­tary ten­sion is a highly sen­si­tive is­sue in Ja­pan, where its paci­fist post­war con­sti­tu­tion strictly lim­its use of force to the coun­try’s self-de­fense only.

Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, how­ever, has grad­u­ally ex­panded Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary role.

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