Japan says safety of ships in Hormuz is a matter of 'life and death'

A tugboat moves cargo towards the Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Musandam province, Oman, on July 20, 2018.
A tugboat moves cargo towards the Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Musandam province, Oman, on July 20, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Japan sees ensuring the safety of shipping in the Strait of Hormuz as a matter of life and death in terms of its energy security, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Tuesday (June 25).

Mr Suga was responding to a question about President Donald Trump's tweet that said nations heavily dependent on fuel exports from the Middle East - including China and Japan - should defend their own ships rather than relying on the US.

The Trump administration has blamed Iran for recent attacks on oil tankers near the Persian Gulf, though Iran denies it.

"We are seriously concerned about rising tensions in the Middle East," Mr Suga said. "In particular, the safety of shipping in the Straits of Hormuz is a matter of life and death for our country in terms of energy security and it is extremely important for the peace and prosperity of the international community."

He added that Japan would continue diplomatic efforts in close cooperation with the US and other countries.

In a call with reporters on Monday, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo's envoy for Iran, Mr Brian Hook, said more than 60 per cent of the oil that passes through the strait goes to Asian countries.

Hemmed in by its pacifist Constitution, Japan relies on the US for security. It has gradually expanded efforts to support US military actions, including sending peacekeeping troops to Iraq about 15 years ago.

 
 

Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the decades-old US-drafted Constitution was reinterpreted in 2014 to allow Japan to defend allies in cases where it faces an existential threat.

Mr Trump has recently mused with aides about withdrawing from the US-Japan security treaty, Bloomberg News reported.