TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit the Middle East for five days from Saturday as scheduled, informed sources said Friday.
Abe now believes that the tense situation in the Middle East will ease after U.S. President Donald Trump suggested in his speech on Wednesday a negative stance on the use of further military force against Iran, according to the sources.
The decision to go ahead with Abe's trip to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman was announced on Friday.
Speaking to reporters at the prime minister's office on Thursday, Abe welcomed Trump's speech as showing self-restraint.
"Japan will continue to make every diplomatic effort to ease the situation in the Middle East and achieve stability in the region," he said.
Some in the Japanese government, mainly Foreign Ministry officials, called for a postponement of the trip after Iran fired dozens of ballistic missiles on two Iraqi bases used by U.S. forces on Wednesday in retaliation for the U.S. airstrike last week that killed a top Iranian commander.
But Abe is seen opting to go ahead with the Middle East trip because Iran has also shown a restrained response, the sources said.
"If there is no change in the situation in the Middle East, the prime minister will take the trip as planned," a person close to him said.
During the planned trip, Abe apparently hopes to hold talks with leaders of the three countries and try to win their support for Japan's plan to send Maritime Self-Defense Force units to the Middle East on a mission to gather information for ensuring sea lane safety in the region.
Abe also plans to call on the leaders to boost diplomatic efforts for easing the tensions in the region.