Asia Minute: U.S. Asia Pacific Allies Cautious in Middle East

Jan 6, 2020

The new round of tension between the United States and Iran is affecting some U.S. allies in the Asia Pacific.

A unit of Japan’s Self Defense Forces is bound for the Middle East – and the deployment has now become more complicated.

According to plans adopted by Japan’s cabinet late last month, the forces will be conducting an intelligence-gathering mission in just a few weeks in the waters off Yemen and Oman. Last June, an oil tanker operated by a company based in Japan was damaged by an attack in the Gulf of Oman that the United States blamed on Iran.

Japan has maintained closer relations with Iran than some other countries. And before the U.S. led sanctions against the Tehran government, Japan got more than 5% of its imported oil from Iran.

The Japan Times quotes a senior fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs as saying that because of the recent U.S. actions, the risks for the upcoming Japanese mission “have increased tenfold.”

Other U.S. allies are taking a cautious approach in the region — especially in Iraq.

The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs issued a statement Friday night calling on all Filipinos to cancel any travel to Iraq until further notice “in view of the current situation in the country.”

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency said that country’s foreign ministry is “keeping close tabs on the safety of some 1,600 South Koreans staying in Iraq.”