Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo said that his country is arranging Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's visit to Tokyo to reduce tensions through diplomatic efforts.
Abe did not say when President Rouhani would make the trip. However, diplomatic sources had earlier said that the Iranian president's visit could take place on December 20, Kyodo News Agency reported. It would be the second visit to Japan by an Iranian president since 1979.
Japan is a key US ally but it also maintains friendly ties with Iran and has an interest in easing tensions in the Middle East, from which it imports more than 80 percent of its oil.
"By steadfastly pursuing dialogue, we will continue to make every diplomatic effort possible to ease tensions and achieve stability in the region," Abe said.
It had been expected that the United States would object to a visit to Japan by Rouhani, but the sources said Washington has already given Tokyo the green light, a decision apparently borne out of a desire to gain a better understanding of Tehran's thinking.
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araghchi informed Abe of Rouhani's desire to visit during a meeting last Tuesday.
President Rouhani has been invited to attend a conference in Malaysia in mid-December.
Abe laid the groundwork for the visit during his trip to Iran in June, when he became the first Japanese prime minister to travel to the country since 1978, the year before the Islamic Revolution. On that occasion, he also met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.