Ja­pan Pre­pares to Restart Iran Oil Im­ports


TOKYO (Dis­patches) - Af­ter sus­pend­ing all ship­ments of Ira­nian crude to Ja­panese re­finer­ies ahead of the Novem­ber 5 launch of U.S. sanc­tions against Tehran, Ja­panese re­fin­ers are now pre­par­ing to re­sume Ira­nian oil im­ports. That’s ac­cord­ing to Ja­pan’s Trade Min­is­ter Hiroshige Seki as quoted by Reuters.

“It would be up to the judg­ment of pri­vate firms, but based on this de­ci­sion, the (Ja­panese) com­pa­nies would likely pre­pare for re­sum­ing Iran crude im­ports,” Seki said, de­clin­ing to com­ment on the size of ship­ments as com­pared to im­ports be­fore the an­nounce­ment of the sanc­tions.

Ja­pan is one of Iran’s largest oil im­porters, but it is also the United States’ staunch­est ally in Asia— and the com­bi­na­tion of the two has not worked to Tokyo’s ad­van­tage.

While the gov­ern­ment has been try­ing to se­cure a waiver from the U.S. State De­part­ment, the Ja­panese econ­omy seems to be de­pen­dent enough on U.S. lend­ing to make lo­cal re­fin­ers ex­tra-cau­tious.

As of Septem­ber, Ira­nian crude oil ac­counted for 5 per­cent of Ja­pan’s crude oil in­take, and, as the head of the Pe­tro­leum As­so­ci­a­tion of Ja­pan, Takashi Tsukioka, com­mented in Septem­ber, Tokyo will try to main­tain a good re­la­tion­ship with Tehran de­spite the sanc­tions. How re­al­is­tic this is re­mains to be seen.

Still, U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said on Mon­day that the United States has de­cided to is­sue tem­po­rary al­lot­ments to China, In­dia, Italy, Greece, Ja­pan, South Korea, Tai­wan, and Turkey to con­tinue im­port­ing Ira­nian oil, due to the spe­cific coun­tries’ cir­cum­stances and to en­sure a well-sup­plied oil mar­ket.

While there is an em­pha­sis on tem­po­rary, with Pom­peo adding “We con­tinue ne­go­ti­a­tions to get all the na­tions to zero,” the waivers were largely seen as the big­gest rea­son why oil prices did not rise sharply on Mon­day when the sanc­tions went into ef­fect. State­ments from China that it will con­tinue buy­ing Ira­nian oil re­gard­less of U.S. sanc­tions re­in­forced the bear­ish­ness.

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