Rouhani became the first Iranian president to visit Japan since 2000 when he landed in Tokyo Friday, his overnight stay seen as the international outreach to the important Middle Eastern country despite US efforts to isolate it.
The Iranian president inspected a guard of honor along with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the latter's central Tokyo office before summit talks and a dinner scheduled to last into Friday evening.
Despite being a military ally of the US, Japan has traditionally maintained friendly relations with Iran as a major source of energy. In 2017, Iran supplied 5.2 percent of Japan’s crude oil imports.
Iran's oil exports, however, have been disrupted by unilateral American sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Japan also relies on the Middle East for nearly 90% of its oil needs, but tensions have risen to new highs amid US deployment of new troops and military assets to the Persian Gulf.
Tensions have escalated since President Donald Trump’s decision last year to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the international nuclear agreement with Iran is officially called.
“The nuclear deal is an extremely important agreement, and we strongly condemn the US withdrawal, which was one-sided and irrational,” Rouhani said in the meeting with Abe on Friday.
“We hope that Japan and other countries in the world will make efforts toward maintaining the agreement,” the Iranian president added.
President Rouhani has said that the purpose of his visit to Japan is to discuss the security of the Middle East and calming tensions in the Persian Gulf.