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Shinzo Abe’s Latest Diplomatic Long Shot: Peacemaking in Iran

Still, Mr. Abe has little to lose.

If anything, the trip could improve his standing at home as the country heads into elections for the upper house of Parliament next month. He wants to establish his legacy “by advancing Japan’s foreign and domestic agenda,” Mr. Okamoto said, and the Tehran visit offers an opportunity.

But although Mr. Abe has been an active advocate of Japan abroad, Mr. Okamoto added, he has “yet to show the public concrete solutions to several important issues, especially with Russia and North Korea.”

The Japanese leader has sought to insert himself in the dispute over North Korea’s nuclear program, offering to meet with the country’s leader with no preconditions. And he has aggressively courted President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, in an attempt to end a decades-old territorial dispute over islands off Japan’s northern prefecture.

Those efforts have not yielded much success. North Korea has ignored his entreaties, and there has been no substantial movement in discussions with Russia. Mr. Abe’s courting of Mr. Trump, too, has produced limited benefits. It has delayed, but not eliminated, the threat of American tariffs against Japan’s key exports.

The prime minister has had more success with China. Last year, he became the first Japanese leader to visit the country since a 2012 disagreement over disputed islands derailed relations with Beijing.

Still, even if success is elusive, there’s no real downside to trying, said Daniel Sneider, an expert on Japanese diplomacy at Stanford University.

“I don’t see the French president going to Iran,” he said.

“If Abe goes, other people might follow,” he added. “And that makes it harder to trigger a conflict.”

Source: NYT > World

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