TOKYO — The Japanese government on Tuesday vowed to prevent possible disruptions to its energy supply as the United States announced an end to its sanctions waivers for Japan and other countries importing oil from Iran.
“We will consider necessary steps to make sure that energy supply to Japan is not affected, by exchanging views with Japanese companies concerned,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference.
The United States said Monday it will end sanctions waivers granted since November for eight major importers of Iranian crude oil on May 2, sending crude oil prices surging. The move is part of a pressure campaign aimed at ending Tehran’s nuclear program and depriving the country of funds which Washington says have been used to destabilize the Middle East.
Resource-poor Japan relies heavily on energy imports, with Iranian oil, considered cheaper that that from other countries, having made up about 5 percent of Japan’s crude oil imports.
But as U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has hardened its stance on Iran, major Japanese oil distributors have suspended Iranian oil imports and shifted to alternative supplies in the Middle East.
Industry minister Hiroshige Seko told a separate press conference that Iran’s share of Japan’s total crude oil imports has fallen to around 3 percent and that there will be limited impact on gasoline and other energy supplies in Japan.
The government will monitor crude oil prices and consult with the United States when needed, “depending on how the situation unfolds from now,” he said.
The other seven buyers of Iranian oil affected by the U.S. move are China, India, Turkey, South Korea, Greece, Italy and Taiwan.
Last year, Trump pulled his country out of a 2015 international nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers and reinstated economic sanctions against Tehran that were lifted under the deal.