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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Tanker attacks expose Japan’s vulnerability to reliance on Middle East oil

  • June 15, 2019
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All national dailies reportedly extensively on Saturday on the latest tanker attacks near the Strait of Hormuz, focusing on the Trump administration’s conclusion that Iran was responsible and Iran’s dismissal of the U.S. claim. They took up President Trump’s remarks on Fox TV that Iran “did do it.” The dailies expressed deep concern that although both sides have said they do not want to go to war, such an incident could end up causing an inadvertent military showdown.


Highlighting President Trump’s tweet saying that while he appreciates Prime Minister Abe going to Iran to meet with Khamenei, he feels that it is too soon to make a deal with Iran, Asahi opined that the prospects for dialogue between Washington and Tehran appear to be even bleaker than before.


Nikkei wrote the tanker attacks reminded Japan of the possibility of a blockade of the Strait of Hormuz, which would be a nightmare scenario for the Japanese economy because it still depends heavily on petroleum from Gulf states. Japan reportedly imported 87% of its oil from the region in 2017, as opposed to 78% in 1973. Japan’s reliance on oil from the Middle East has increased following the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. The business daily conjectured that the Trump administration is taking a hard line toward Iran because America’s reliance on oil from the Middle East has declined rapidly following a surge in the production of shale oil and gas at home. The paper added that Japan needs to swiftly diversify its oil supply sources to reduce its reliance on the Middle East.  


Most national dailies on Sunday published follow-up reports, noting that the Trump administration plans to share with the international community additional intelligence pointing to Iran’s involvement in the tanker attacks in a bid to step up the pressure on Tehran. Nikkei said Washington’s renewed diplomatic offensive against Iran runs the risk of dividing the international community, as Tehran has reached out to China and Russia to counter U.S. pressure. It added that while the UK has aligned with the U.S. in condemning Iran, other nations such as Germany and France are still uncertain about who was responsible for the attacks.    

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