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Ensuring safety of marine transport must be top priority in Middle East

The Yomiuri ShimbunRecent attacks on tankers represent despicable acts that threaten the safety of marine transport and the stable supply of energy. Attacks on civilian vessels are absolutely unacceptable.

Two tankers were attacked as they navigated through the sea off Oman near the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East. One of the tankers is owned by a Japanese company and was reportedly fired on twice. All of its crew members escaped from the tanker before being rescued.

The Strait of Hormuz is positioned as the main artery for global crude oil transport. Most crude oil imported by Japan from such Middle Eastern countries as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is transported to Japan via the Strait of Hormuz. Hence the strait is a lifeline for Japan’s energy supply.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has issued an alert via a shipping organization to Japan-related vessels that navigate through waters near the scenes of recent attacks. The government should make all-out efforts to ensure the safe navigation of ships by conducting information-gathering activities.

The U.N. Security Council has called an emergency session. It is natural that all Security Council members have agreed to condemn the attacks as violations of international law.

Washington said Iran is responsible for the attacks just as it was in the case of tankers, including those from Saudi Arabia, attacked in the waters off the UAE in May.

The U.S. military has released a video it said shows a boat belonging to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard force approaching the stricken Japanese vessel and carrying out some operations, explaining that the unit was “removing an unexploded limpet mine” from the attacked vessel.

Continued mediation vital

Iran, on the other hand, has persistently denied its involvement in the attacks, insisting that the U.S. claim is groundless.

Who made the attacks and for what purposes? And how were the attacks committed? It is essential to accumulate concrete pieces of evidence. It is indispensable that a recurrence of similar incidents be prevented by strengthening surveillance.

The attack on the Japanese-owned tanker was made during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Tehran where he was playing the role of mediator to ease tensions between the United States and Iran. It can be said that the incident has once again brought the seriousness of the situation into focus.

During a meeting with Abe, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed his position of refusing dialogue with Washington.

U.S. President Donald Trump, for his part, has not shown any sign of softening his stance, saying that it is too early to make a deal.

To work toward calming the situation, it is imperative for Japan to continue to serve as a mediator between the United States and Iran.

Unless the hard-line stance of Washington and Tehran can be restrained, it may lead to an accidental clash. The United States has sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the Middle East while Iran has threatened to blockade the Strait of Hormuz.

Destabilization of the situation in the Middle East will trigger spikes in crude oil prices, dealing a great blow to the global economy. The United States and Iran, the latter a great regional power, should recognize the weight of their responsibilities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 15, 2019)Speech



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