ABU DHABI (Kyodo) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Monday with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to deepen cooperation on reducing tensions in the Middle East and securing stable energy supplies.
Abe plans to explain Japan's deployment of a destroyer and reconnaissance planes to waters in the Middle East, excluding the Persian Gulf, to safeguard commercial shipping.
Located near the Strait of Hormuz, a critical sea lane, the United Arab Emirates is the second-largest oil supplier to Japan, which relies on the Persian Gulf state for about a third of its imports. A series of attacks on tankers have taken place near the strait, including one operated by a Japanese firm.
With stability in the Middle East a priority for Japan, Abe has been stepping up diplomatic efforts to reduce tensions that recently spiked when the U.S. killing of a Iranian top commander was followed by Tehran's retaliatory missile strikes against Iraqi bases hosting American troops.
Abe is also aiming to expand bilateral cooperation beyond energy in his talks with the crown prince, according to Japanese officials.
The UAE is the second leg of the prime minister's five-day trip to the Middle East aimed at stressing the importance of diplomatic efforts in deescalating the Middle East situation.
Abe visited Saudi Arabia for talks with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday during which the premier expressed concern about the consequences of a military confrontation and sought Saudi Arabia's help in stabilizing the region.
As Japan's own initiative, independent of a U.S.-led maritime security coalition, the Self-Defense Forces will be deployed on an intelligence-gathering mission to the Gulf of Oman, the northern part of the Arabian Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait connecting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have joined the U.S. initiative.