Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida is scheduled to visit Iran next month, as he revealed his schedule on Tuesday, in what might be read as an intervention on Tehran’s rapidly deteriorating relationship with the Western world. Kishida said he plans a three-day trip starting on November 9, the day after Iranian negotiators wrap up talks with other global powers in Geneva over the country’s nuclear program. Western nations, led by the United States, have long suspected that Iran is trying to build an atomic bomb with its nuclear program, but Tehran denies the allegations.
Tokyo is hoping to play a role in asking the government of Iran to “show flexibility” on the nuclear issue, taking advantage of Japan’s longstanding friendly ties with Iran, a foreign ministry official said. Japan is one of a small number of countries that has actually has an embassy in Tehran, a reflection of the trade and economic relationship shared by both countries. Japan has been dependent on the Middle East and has maintained relations with Iran in the face of pressure from the West to cut ties with the country. Japan has chosen middle ground, dropping its oil imports by 40 percent last year as a nod to international sanctions, but keeping its ties with the country intact. According to the ministry official, Kishida “has strong interest in the nuclear issue”.
Because of the Western suspicion of Iran’s nuclear program – and the country’s strong refusal to fully disclose details about it – Iran has endured years of sanctions. The new leader, President Hassan Rouhani, who took office in August, is seen as a relative moderate and the West is hoping to put to an end the long-running crisis. This situation has set up a series of meetings, including that in Geneva next month of the so-called P5+1 of the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany, with hopes high of a breakthrough in the diplomatic process.