Japan Won’t Deploy Warships to the Strait of Hormuz, Defense Minister Says

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KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty

(UPI) — Japan says it has no plans to deploy its military to the Strait of Hormuz, despite reports the United States could have suggested a coalition of allies in the shipping channel that includes Tokyo.

Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said Tuesday he has “no plan” to send the country’s self-defense forces to the Middle East in order to protect commercial shipping interests from countries like Iran, Kyodo News reported.

The statement comes only a few weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump said oil importers like Japan, and China, should defend their own ships, rather than relying on U.S. military power to guard against attacks.

Tokyo has been quietly at odds with the Trump administration over attacks against two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman in June, including the Kokuka Courageous, a Japanese ship.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said at the time Tehran was responsible; Japan had said the claim lacked evidence.

On Tuesday, Iwaya said he would neither confirm nor deny whether the United States has approached Japan specifically on military deployment in the Middle East.

“We have been regularly communicating closely with the U.S. side,” Iwaya said. “But we should refrain from divulging specific exchange.”

Jiji Press reported on Sunday Japan was refraining from the decision to deploy because of potential backlash.

In June Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tried to mediate U.S.-Iran relations during a summit with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The attacks took place while Abe and the Japanese delegation were still in Iran.

Iran has denied involvement in the attacks, despite U.S. claims Iran is reneging on nuclear pledges and threatening to destabilize the region.

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