US and Japan confirm ‘joint desire’ to stop Iran oil imports

Donald Trump and Shinzo Abe share a common ground to eliminate oil imports from Iran. (Reuters pic)

NEW YORK: US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday confirmed a joint desire to eliminate oil imports from Iran, a US official said.

The two leaders also discussed a “desire to see Iran change its path and seek a more peaceful course forward,” US Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty said in a call with reporters.

Trump and Abe also confirmed a joint desire to see China cease militarisation of disputed territories in the East China Sea, Hagerty said.

US Central Command chief General Kenneth McKenzie said the United States would deploy the necessary resources to counter any dangerous actions by Iran, Sky News Arabia reported.

“We’re going to continue to reach out to our partners and friends in the region to ensure that we make common cause against the threat of Iran,” McKenzie, on an official visit to the Gulf region, was quoted as saying by Sky News Arabia.

“I believe we’ll have the resources necessary to deter Iran from taking actions that will be dangerous,” he said, according to a transcript released by the Abu Dhabi-based channel.

“We will be able to respond effectively.” Tensions between Tehran and Washington have risen since the Trump administration last year withdrew from an international nuclear deal with Iran and began ratcheting up sanctions.

Earlier this month, the United States blacklisted Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.

Washington on Monday demanded buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers, most of them in Asia, to continue importing limited volumes.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and some senior military commanders have threatened to disrupt oil shipments from Gulf countries if Washington tries to strangle Tehran oil exports.

McKenzie also said a reduction of US troops in Syria would be done cautiously. “On the long term, we’re gonna (going to) reduce our forces in Syria, we recognise that, that’s the guidance in which we are operating.

That will be something that we will look at very carefully as we go forward,” the general said. President Trump had ordered the withdrawal of US. troops Syria in December after he said they had defeated Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria.

In February, a senior administration official said the United States will leave about 400 US troops split between two different regions of Syria. McKenzie also said he was confident that the US is going to have “a long term presence in Iraq, focused on the counter-terror mission.”