US President Donald Trump on Monday held out the possibility of negotiations with Iran as he met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is reportedly weighing a trip to Tehran.
“I do believe that Iran would like to talk, and if they’d like to talk, we’d like to talk also,” Trump said.
“We’ll see what happens, but I know for a fact that the prime minister (Abe) is very close with the leadership of Iran… nobody wants to see terrible things happen, especially me.”
Earlier this week, the United States said it was deploying 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East to counter “credible threats” from Iran in a move denounced by Tehran on Saturday as “a threat to international peace.”
The escalation of the US military presence follows a decision in early May to send an aircraft carrier strike force and B-52 bombers in a show of force against what Washington’s leaders believed was an imminent Iranian plan to attack US assets.
The new deployment includes reconnaissance aircraft, fighter jets and engineers. Six hundred of the personnel belong to a Patriot missile defense battalion that had its deployment in the region extended.
Pentagon officials said the move was necessary after multiple threatening actions and several small-in-scope attacks in May by Iranian forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and “proxy” forces.
Those include a rocket launched into the Green Zone in Baghdad, explosive devices that damaged four tankers in Fujairah near the entrance to the Gulf, and a Houthi drone attack against a Saudi oil installation.
Iran has denied involvement in any of the attacks.
Pentagon officials have stressed that the US does not seek war with Iran.
“We do not see these additional capabilities as encouraging hostilities. We see them as defensive in nature,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Katie Wheelbarger.
“Our policy remains an economic and diplomatic effort to bring Iran back to the negotiating table to encourage a comprehensive deal that addresses the range of their destabilizing behavior in the region.”
Trump said he had a good feeling that the nuclear standoff with North Korea will be resolved.
“I may be right, I may be wrong. But I feel that we’ve come a long way. There’s been no rocket testing, there’s been no nuclear testing,” he said.
North Korea has not tested long-range missiles that could hit the United States. But earlier this month, North Korea fired off a series of short-range missiles that alarmed U.S. allies in closer proximity to North Korea. National Security Adviser John Bolton said violated UN Security Council resolutions. The tests broke a pause in North Korea’s ballistic missile launches that began in late 2017.
North Korea on Monday called Bolton a “war monger” and “defective human product” after he called the tests on May 4 and May 9 a violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency on Monday carried a statement by an unnamed spokesman of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry who said that Pyongyang was rightfully exercising its rights to self-defense with the launches.
The tests have been seen as a way for North Korea to pressure Washington to soften its stance on easing sanctions against it without actually causing the negotiations to collapse.
“We’ll see what happens,” Trump said in Tokyo. “There’s a good respect built — maybe a great respect built — between certainly the United States and North Korea. We will see what happens.”