(Persia Digest) - Donald Trump has said he would support Shinzo Abe’s efforts to act as a mediator between the US and Iran, as reports suggested the Japanese prime minister would visit Tehran next month for talks with the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani.
Speaking at a press conference on the penultimate day of his state visit to Japan, Trump also gave his backing to Abe’s attempts to set up a first summit, without preconditions, with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, hours after the regime described the US president’s national security adviser, John Bolton, as a warmonger.
Tehran says it has no interest in talking to the US administration, which has imposed tough sanctions on the country over its nuclear programme and last week sent 1,500 troops to the region.
“I know that the prime minister and Japan have a very good relationship with Iran so we’ll see what happens,” Trump, who has offered Tehran direct talks, told reporters before a working lunch with Abe.
Trump, who became the first world leader to meet Japan’s new emperor, Naruhito, on Monday, added: “The prime minister has already spoken to me about that and I do believe that Iran would like to talk. And if they would like to talk, we would like to talk also. We’ll see what happens … nobody wants to see terrible things happen, especially me.”
Trump later said Washington was not interested in regime change in Iran. “I’m looking to Iran to say no nuclear weapons,” he said. “I think we’ll make a deal. Iran has tremendous economic potential … We’re not looking for regime change, we’re looking for no nuclear weapons. I’m not looking to hurt Iran at all.”
Abe said Japan “would like to do whatever it can. Japan and the US should collaborate closely so that tensions surrounding Iran are lessened and do not result in armed conflict”.
Trump’s conciliatory tone extended to North Korea, despite the deadlock in denuclearisation talks and Pyongyang’s recent testing of short-range missiles.
Standing next to Abe at the state guest house in Tokyo, he said he believed Kim was “looking to create a nation that has great strength economically … He’s looking to develop that and he knows that with nuclear weapons that’s not going to happen.”
Noting that Pyongyang had not tested nuclear weapons or long-range missiles since late 2017, Trump added: “I’m very happy with the way it’s going.”
He said earlier on Monday that his relationship with the North Korean leader was one of great respect, and talked up the prospect of progress in dismantling the regime’s nuclear weapons programme.
North Korea responded by calling Bolton a warmonger and “defective human product” after he said at the weekend that there was no doubt that Pyongyang’s short-range missile tests early this month had violated UN security council resolutions.
Abe agreed with Bolton’s assessment, but Trump told reporters he was “not personally bothered” by the launches.
North Korea’s official KCNA news agency quoted an unnamed North Korean spokesman as saying: “Bolton should not be called a security adviser who works to secure security, but an adviser for security destruction who destroys peace and security. It’s best that this defective human product goes away as soon as possible.”
Abe recently shifted his stance on engagement with North Korea, saying he would be willing to meet Kim without preconditions, having previously refused to talk unless significant progress was made on resolving the cold war abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents.
“I feel I have to meet face-to-face with Chairman Kim without attaching any preconditions and exchange frank views with him,” Abe said. “President Trump … said he would give his full support to that.”
On Monday, Trump met the families of some of the people who were taken to North Korea in the 1970s and 80s to teach their language and customs to the regime’s spies. The president, who has raised the issue in his two summits with Kim, said he would continue to work to resolve the abductions and end the “unspeakable heartbreak” suffered by their families.
Emperor Naruhito and his wife, Empress Masako, had earlier welcomed Trump and the first lady, Melania, to the imperial palace, where the president made a solo inspection of a self-defence force guard of honour and greeted Japanese and US officials and politicians.
Trump said it was a great honour to be the first leader to meet Naruhito, who became emperor weeks ago after his father, Akihito, became the first Japanese monarch to abdicate for 200 years.
With the pageantry over, Trump and Abe held talks in the afternoon. Trump said US-Japan relations had never been better, but with the allies locked in talks over a bilateral trade deal, he has complained about the “tremendous” trade deficit with Japan several times since he arrived on Saturday.
“I think we will be announcing some things probably in August that will be very good for both countries,” Trump said. Japan had “been doing much more business with us and we would like to do a little bit more business in the reverse.”
Japan is desperate to see off Trump’s threats to impose high tariffs on its cars and auto parts as part of an effort to reduce trade surpluses with other countries.
Source: The Guardian
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