Japan would not be joining a US-led security mission to protect merchant vessels passing through the Strait of Hormuz and other parts of the Persian Gulf, but it would consider deploying its naval force independently, according to a report on September 3rd in Yomiuri.
Japan has economic ties with Iran, with Japanese firms being major buyers of Iranian oil until the current administration reimposed US sanctions.
Citing unnamed government sources, Yomiuri said Japan was considering a plan to send its Maritime Self-Defence Force (SDF) on information-gathering missions in the areas around the Strait of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandab shipping lane, between Yemen, Djibouti and Eritrea.
It would also consider including the Strait of Hormuz in the SDF’s sphere of activity if Iran agreed, the paper said.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to mention specific measures that the government was considering to ensure the safety of Japanese vessels, saying that “as for what kind of steps would be effective to secure the safety of navigation of Japanese ships in the Middle East, we would like to look into the matter from various angles including stable crude oil supply, and Japan’s ties with the United States and Iran”, adding that “as we investigate the issue, we want to keep our principle of maintaining our diplomatic effort for easing tensions and stabilising the situation in the Middle East.”
The Japanese government will reach a final decision, including whether the plan is feasible, after the UN General Assembly later this month, the Yomiuri said.
Suga said that arrangements were being made for Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month.