Japan not ready for Iran oil sanctions
New US sanctions seek to prevent other countries from importing Iran's crude oil.
Despite an earlier pledge by Japan to join US sanctions against Iran's oil exports, the country's foreign minister says no final decision has been made on this issue.
Koichiro Gemba's remarks came after Japan's Finance Minister Jun Azumi indicated that Tokyo was falling in line with US demands to impose sanctions on Iran's oil sector.
"The United States would like to impose sanctions. We believe it is necessary to be extremely circumspect about this matter," Gemba told a news conference along with his visiting French counterpart, Alain Juppe.
The Japanese foreign minister said his country has reduced its dependence on Iranian crude over the last five years and Iran's oil consignments currently make up for around one-tenth of Japan's oil imports.
"We are examining whether there is any advantage in a further reduction. But it is important to know what impact any reduction would have on the price of crude,” the Japanese minister added.
On December 31, US President Barack Obama signed into law fresh economic sanctions against Iran's Central Bank in a bid to punish foreign companies and banks that do business with the Iranian financial institutions, including the purchase of the country's crude oil.
The bill requires foreign financial firms to make a choice between doing business with Iran's Central Bank and oil sector or with the US financial sector.
US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner launched a tour of East Asian nations last week to convince major importers of Iranian oil, including South Korea, China, India, and Japan to cut Iran oil imports.
Geithner came away empty-handed from Beijing, which refused to join the sanctions against Iran's oil sector.
India, which buys about USD 12 billion worth of oil from Iran a year, also said it had not told refiners to reduce supplies, while South Korea said it would ask the US to allow it not to cut imports.
The United States, however, continues mounting pressure on foreign firms to stop buying Iranian crude to force Tehran to halt its nuclear energy program.
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 (IAEA) released its latest report on Iran's nuclear program on November 8, accusing Tehran of seeking to weaponize its nuclear technology.
Tehran argues that as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the IAEA, it has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful objectives.