This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who is on a state visit to Japan, has said that the United States is not seeking regime change in Iran, amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
“We’re not looking for regime change, we’re looking for no nuclear weapons,” Trump said after talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, adding that he thinks “we’ll make a deal” with Tehran.
Relations between Tehran and Washington have plummeted since the United States a year ago pulled out of a 2015 nuclear accord between world powers and Iran that curbed the country’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions.
Since then, Washington has reimposed sanctions, stepped up its rhetoric, and beefed up its military presence in the Middle East, prompting growing concerns of a possible military conflict with Iran.
Before his talks with Abe, Trump said: “Nobody wants to see terrible things happen, especially me.”
“I do believe that Iran would like to talk and if they’d like to talk, we’d like to talk also,” the U.S. president told reporters.
Trump also noted that Abe has a “very good relationship with Iran,” amid Japanese media reports saying that the Japanese leader is considering a visit to the Middle Eastern country next month.
In announcing the U.S. pullout from the nuclear deal in May 2018, Trump said the terms were not tough enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and did not address Iran’s missile program or Tehran’s support for militants in the region.
Iran has denied it supports insurgent activity and said its nuclear program was strictly for civilian energy purposes.
Iranian leaders also reject any talks with the United States, which they accuse of pushing for regime change in the country.
Apart from Iran, Trump and Abe also discussed trade and Japan’s concerns over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
Trump said that he was not “personally bothered” by recent short-range missile tests, which Pyongyang conducted this month.
Abe disagreed, saying that the missile tests violated UN Security Council resolutions and were “of great regret.”
A February summit in Hanoi between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke down without producing results on the process of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
“Lots of good things will come with North Korea,” Trump told Abe at the start of their talks. “We’ve come a long way. There’s a good respect built, maybe a great respect, built between certainly the United States and North Korea.”
As Trump was meeting with Abe, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry called White House national-security adviser John Bolton a “war monger” and “defective human product” in response to his description of a recent North Korean short-range missile test as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Earlier on May 27, Trump became the first foreign leader to meet with Japan’s new emperor who ascended to the throne on May 1.
Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako greeted the U.S. president and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, at the Tokyo Imperial Palace.