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Japan seeks to avoid harmful impact from US sanctions on Iran: METI minister

Tokyo — Japan remains committed to avoiding any harmful impact from US sanctions on Iran, as it sees the Middle Eastern oil producer important for the country's supply security, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko said Friday.

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"Japan's relationship with Iran, as one of the world's leading oil producing countries, is important as the country relies on almost all of its petroleum [needs] on imports," Seko said at a press conference in Tokyo.

While declining to comment on the state of Japan's talks with the US on Iranian sanctions, Seko said: "We intend to have close discussions with the US side in order to avoid having a harmful effect from the US measures on Japan's stable energy supply and its corporate activity."

Japan is one of eight countries that received a 180-day exemption from US sanctions on Iranian oil imports. The sanctions waiver is set to expire May 2.

Amid a lack of clarity over US' extension of the current sanctions waiver, Japanese refiners completed their imports of Iranian oil by mid-April.

Refiners Idemitsu Kosan, Showa Shell and Cosmo Oil said April 10 that they had yet to decide on their Iranian oil imports, following the latest US-Japan talks on Iran sanctions in Washington on April 8. Fuji Oil, a major Japanese buyer of Iranian oil, said then it will consider procuring Iranian crude both on a term and spot basis if Washington extends its sanctions waiver to Tokyo beyond May.

In February, Japan imported 135,013 b/d of Iranian oil, marking the first imports in four months, down 25.1% year on year, according to METI data.

Iranian Heavy crude accounted for 86.8% of the total Iranian oil imported in February, when Japan also took 249,139 barrels of Soroosh, marking the first imports of the grade since May 2016.

-- Takeo Kumagai, takeo.kumagai@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Haripriya Banerjee, newsdesk@spglobal.com