S. Korea disregards US oil sanctions
Energy experts believe the new US sanctions on Iran could lead to a major hike in crude oil prices.
South Korea has announced that it will buy around 10 percent of its needed crude from Iran in 2012, which will be slightly higher than last year.
Seoul's demand for more Iranian oil follows the approval of a new act by the US Senate for imposing tougher sanctions on Iran's financial and energy sectors.
Ignoring the sanctions, South Korea, which is the world's fifth largest oil importer, is planning to buy 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude this year, a little more than the 190,000 bpd in 2011.
According to Reuters, South Korean authorities are going to meet with US officials to lobby for an exemption to US sanctions which will enable the country to buy and pay for Iran's oil.
SK Energy Company will buy the additional amount of Iran's crude by increasing its Iran oil import 10,000 bpd compared to last year's figure.
Hyundai Oilbank, the only other South Korean refiner that buys Iranian crude, will import 70,000 bpd in 2012, unchanged from 2011, a Hyundai spokesman said on Wednesday. He added that Hyundai is also making contingency plans for any disruption in oil flow.
"We are planning for various scenarios, including diversifying supply lines, if the situation changes," the spokesman said.
On Saturday, US President Barack Obama signed into law fresh economic sanctions against Iran's Central Bank in an apparent bid to punish foreign companies and banks that do business with the Iranian financial institution.
The bill aims to prevent refiners across the world from paying for Iran's oil, while the European Union is considering measures that would ban its member states from importing the crude.
The legislation will not go into effect for six months in a bid to provide oil markets with time to adjust.
It also includes a "waiver," allowing the president to suspend the sanctions in case he decides that the anti-Iran attempt will adversely impact the national security interests of the US.
The inclusion of the “waiver” in the bill reflects major concerns among American lawmakers that the bullying approach of the US to the Islamic Republic will backfire.
Meanwhile, energy experts say the sanctions could lead to a major hike in crude oil prices and disrupt the interests of the US and its allies that depend on oil imports from Iran.
US sanctions, as well as unilateral embargoes imposed on Iran's energy and financial sectors by Britain and Canada came after the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report on the Iranian nuclear program early in November, accusing Tehran of seeking to weaponize its nuclear technology.
Despite the widely publicized claims by the US, Israel and some of their European allies that Iran's nuclear program may include a military diversion, Iran insists on its civilian nature, arguing that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.