Dec 20, 2019, 12:12 PM
Journalist ID: 956
News Code: 83601523
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Tokyo keen on bolstering mutual coop with Iran, Japanese analyst says

New York, Dec 20, IRNA - Senior Japanese Research Fellow Sachi Sakanashi expressed hope that the official meeting of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would pave the path for mutual cooperation in energy as well as the automobile industry.

In an interview with IRNA, the Japanese expert commented on the visit of President Rouhani to Japan on Friday.

The full text of the interview reads as follows:

Question: President Hassan Rouhani will visit Japan on Friday. This will be the first trip to the country by an Iranian head of state in nearly 20 years. What is the significance of this visit for the Iranian-Japanese bilateral relationship?

Answer: It is the 90th anniversary since the establishment of Iran-Japan diplomatic relations this year and it is great to receive President Rouhani to Japan at the end of this memorable year. Japan has always had good relations with Iran even after the US-Iran relations got somewhat strained after the 1979 (Islamic) Revolution. Japan is eager to keep good relations with Iran in the future too and we believe President Rouhani’s visit to Japan will help strengthen the bilateral relations.

Question: How does the Japanese government view the importance of economic ties between Tehran and Tokyo?

Answer: One of the most significant aspects of Iran-Japan relations during the past 90 years was oil. Iran was the first Persian Gulf country from which Japan bought oil directly after WWII (when the oil supply to Japan started to be controlled by the oil majors) and the Iranian oil played a significant role in Japan’s reconstruction after the war. Japan depends on import for its oil and is thankful to Iran that Iran has always been a reliable exporter of oil to Japan in the past.

Question: Iran is an 80-million-people market. Could you tell us what potentials Tokyo sees in this market? Do you think that Japan would be interested in investing in the Iranian car industry and auto market, especially manufacturing electric vehicles?

Answer: Japan is also aware that Iran is an 80-million-people market, which has a great potential for Japanese products in various sectors. Iranian people’s manufacturing skills are also highly appreciated in Japan. More than a few Japanese automakers have entered the Iranian market and cooperated with Iranian car makers in the past. There was a great interest in investing in Iran as well. I believe there will be a time when Japanese car makers can make investments in Iran as they had planned to when the situation improves.

Question: The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that his country was arranging the Iranian president’s visit because it wanted to play a greater role in resolving a nuclear impasse between Tehran and Washington and in relieving tensions in the Middle East. Given the US maximum pressure policy against Tehran, do you think that Tokyo’s mediation efforts between Iran and the US could bear fruit?

Answer: It would be more important whether Iran is willing to negotiate with the US or not. We believe Iran is not a kind of country that will be “forced” into doing something against its will. Therefore, what we will try to do is to extend support to Iran in the best way that we can. It seems as if both the US demands from Iran and Iranian demands from the US are both slightly excessive, leaving little room for negotiation. We are willing to participate in a discussion to delineate the possible space for negotiation as long as Iran is willing to talk to the US.

Question: Prime Minister Abe visited Tehran in June. What has changed since then that could make Tokyo hopeful about reducing tensions between the US and Iran?

Answer: I am not sure if Tokyo is more hopeful than June right now, but what is certain is that the tension in the Persian Gulf region has had a negative impact on Japan’s energy security. As everyone knows, a Japanese tanker was attacked by somebody during Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Iran, which of course also inflicted damage on the Japanese economic interests. We hope it would be possible for us to contribute to the stability of the region and that President Rouhani’s visit to Japan would provide a precious opportunity to find out what should actually be done.

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