Center East reporter masking Iran, Turkey, Syria and the broader area
Tokyo bureau chief masking Japan, North Korea and South Korea.
ISTANBUL — Two oil tankers within the Gulf of Oman got here below suspected assault early Thursday amid hovering tensions between america and Iran.
A Japanese-owned ship was focused simply as Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, wrapped up a high-stakes go to to Tehran to assist cool hostilities within the area and doubtlessly mediate U.S.-Iran talks.
The assault appeared timed to undermine these efforts, which Abe had referred to as “a significant step ahead towards securing peace and stability on this area,” Japan’s Kyodo information company reported.
Each Iran and the U.S. Navy’s fifth Fleet in Bahrain mentioned they have been helping the 2 ships, whose crews have been evacuated safely.
A second vessel, owned by Norway’s Frontline, was on hearth and adrift within the Gulf of Oman close to the Strait of Hormuz, an organization spokesman instructed Norwegian media.
The Japanese-owned ship, which was carrying methanol, suffered injury to its hull, an organization assertion mentioned.
Iranian International Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif mentioned Thursday on Twitter that the assault happened whereas Abe was assembly with Iran’s supreme chief, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, for “intensive and pleasant talks.”
“Suspicious would not start to explain what seemingly transpired this morning,” he mentioned.
The precise circumstances of the assault have been unclear. However the incident follows an analogous operation concentrating on oil tankers in the identical space final month, an assault that U.S. officers blamed on Iran. Iranian officers deny involvement.
The Gulf of Oman hyperlinks the Arabian Sea with the Strait of Hormuz, the gateway to the Persian Gulf. The gulf has been a flash level for tensions between Iran and america, which in latest months has stepped up its “most stress marketing campaign” to isolate Tehran on the world stage.
Final month, the U.S. army despatched further belongings to the Persian Gulf area to counter what it mentioned have been Iranian threats to U.S. pursuits.
The Japanese president of the Kokuka Sangyo delivery firm, which owns the Kokuka Brave ship that was attacked Thursday morning, mentioned the vessel was hit twice over a three-hour interval.
“The primary assault induced a fireplace within the engine room, which [the crew] managed to extinguish,” Yutaka Katada, president of Kokuka Sangyo, instructed reporters in Tokyo.
“Three hours later, they have been attacked once more,” he mentioned. “They felt it was unsafe to remain on board. The captain gave the order to evacuate, [and] they fled on life boats.”
Japan’s economic system minister, Hiroshige Seko, mentioned he was “urging associated enterprise operators to take precautions, reconfirming the communication system, and reconfirming the vitality provide system.”
About 80 p.c of Japan’s oil imports come from the Center East and journey by way of the Strait of Hormuz. Japan is a key U.S. ally however enjoys long-standing diplomatic and cultural ties with Iran.
Abe’s aides mentioned the prime minister’s go to was not a part of a selected mission to mediate between america and Iran.
Khamenei’s workplace, nevertheless, launched an announcement following their assembly that mentioned Abe had carried a message from Trump to Iran.
“I don’t take into account Trump, as an individual, deserving to change messages with,” Khamenei’s web site quoted him as saying. “We won’t negotiate with america.”
President Trump final 12 months determined to withdraw america from a 2015 nuclear pact Iran that signed with world powers. The deal lifted U.S. and different sanctions on Iran in change for restrictions on its nuclear vitality program.
The Trump administration has carried out a near-total embargo on Iran’s economic system and has urged allies to chop business ties with Tehran.
Based on the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the Worldwide Atomic Vitality Company, Iran stays in compliance with the 2015 settlement.
Denyer reported from Tokyo. Akiko Kashiwagi in Tokyo contributed to this report.