Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s upcoming visit to Japan will likely enhance economic relations between the two countries, and help Iran deal with the pressure from the United States, analysts said.

The visit comes amid the standoff between Iran and the US over a landmark nuclear deal signed by Iran and world powers in 2015. Japan, which has traditionally friendly ties with Iran, has been seeking to promote dialogue between Teheran and Washington, even though it is not a signatory to the 2015 nuclear accord.

Rouhani is scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on Friday to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Yu Guoqing, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the timing of the visit was decided “after a lot of consideration” as Teheran hopes to maintain a healthy economic relationship with Tokyo.

As it is under US sanctions, Iran needs a stable export market for its oil, and Japan is one of its most important buyers, he said.

“At the same time, when there is not so much improvement in ties with the US, maintaining a good relationship with Japan will be beneficial for Iran’s diplomacy, as Japan is an ally of the US who could contribute to easing tensions between Teheran and Washington.”

Rouhani will become the first Iranian leader to visit Japan since 2000. His trip follows Abe’s trip to Iran in June, the first by a Japanese prime minister since 1978.

Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said discussions would focus on “expanding economic relations” between the two countries.

“Rouhani’s trip to Japan has nothing to do with issues such as negotiations with the US,” Rabiei said.

“However, our Japanese friends usually convey messages or initiatives, which we welcome… and seriously examine,” he added, stressing the bilateral focus of the visit.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said on Tuesday that Japan would continue to support diplomatic efforts in cooperation with the US, Iran and various other countries aimed at easing tensions in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Japan took one step closer on Tuesday toward realizing a contentious plan to deploy its Self-Defense Forces to the Middle East.

The proposed dispatch of the forces is likely to be approved by the Cabinet next week.

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