TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's prime minister still plans to visit the Middle East starting Saturday despite the crisis in the region, a spokesman said.
Japan is also expected to deploy a warship and a maritime reconnaissance aircraft to protect its shipping interests in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman from Saturday to Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Friday.
"In this visit, as the situation in the Middle East increases in tension, we will exchange views with the three countries that will play an important role in mitigating regional tensions and stabilizing the situation as part of diplomatic efforts to avoid further escalation of the situation," Suga said.
There was uncertainty if the trip would take place after Iran launched missiles toward Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops in response to the U.S. drone strike that killed an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general.
Japan is expected to deploy the warship and reconnaissance aircraft this weekend. The Defense Ministry was expected to announce the deployments later Friday.