Two oil tankers were on fire after a suspected attack in the Gulf of Oman, the same waterway where four other commercial ships sustained serious damage last month after the USA said they were hit by Iranian mines.
The U.S. military released a video on Thursday it said showed Iran's Revolutionary Guards were behind the blasts that struck the Norwegian-owned Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman, at the mouth of the Gulf. The Iranian mission at the United Nations denied any involvement and called the US claim "inflammatory" and "Iranophobic".
Extending support to Iran, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Iranian President Rouhani that China supports the Iranian nuclear deal from which the U.S. has withdrawn.
The president insisted that the Strait of Hormuz, a key commercial shipping route, would not be closed in the wake of the attacks on the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, however, told Abe on Thursday that it was meaningless to exchange message with Trump, according to Iranian state media.
Both ships have indicated the attacks originated from the surface, said maritime security company Dryad Global.
The U.S. military said black-and-white footage it filmed from a U.S. aircraft showed Iran's Guards on one of their patrol boats drawing up to the Kokuka Courageous and removing an unexploded limpet mine from its hull.
It shared photos of the vessel, which showed what appeared to be a conical limpet mine against its side.
"(It) was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the Kokuka Courageous (video attached)", Urban said in a statement.
CENTCOM said the crew from Front Altair was rescued by a cargo ship but then transferred to Iranian FIACs.
Iranian leaders have also rejected the Trump administration's offer to engage in dialogue and questioned Trump's sincerity. A short time later, the Kokuka Courageous, loaded with methanol from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, also called for help.
It said the USS Bainbridge, a guided missile destroyer, was around 40 nautical miles away and began approaching the area "immediately".
Thursday's attack resembled one in May that targeted four oil tankers off the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah. USA officials similarly accused Iran of using limpet mines. The mines disable, but don't sink, a vessel.
For Partrick, the idea that Iran would want to "directly undermine" Abe's visit "and give a gift to Iran's USA and Gulf enemies, by engineering such a substantive attack must be in doubt".
Pompeo said the US based its determination that Iran was behind the attacks on intelligence, the weapons used, and what he called the "level of expertise" needed to carry out such an operation. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday the world could not afford "a major confrontation in the Gulf region".
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said Iran's recent actions "present a clear threat to worldwide peace and security", and declared the US intention to raise the matter at the United Nations security council on Thursday afternoon. Tehran denied any involvement, and precisely who carried it out is still under investigation.
The crew of a second damaged tanker, the Norwegian-owned Front Altair, was put aboard a Revolutionary Guards Corp vessel, the US said.
Pompeo said the attack was tantamount to Iran insulting Japan as Abe was trying to seek peace. Khamenei also said June 13 that Trump's claim that the United States is not interested in regime change "is a lie". Now, Iran is threatening to resume enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels if European nations don't offer it new terms to the deal by July 7.
Iran says it is still abiding by the terms of the nuclear deal, but can not do so indefinitely unless it receives some of the economic benefits that were promised.