THE DRAMATIC U.S. GOVERNMENT
PLATTS - US Treasury Secretary Steven T Mnuchin discussed Iran-related developments with Japan's Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso Thursday, a Treasury spokesman said in a readout of the meeting, which included topics on North Korea and bilateral economic issues.
The meeting comes at a time when Tokyo is seeking clarification from Washington on its intended re-imposition of sanctions against Tehran.
It also comes a day after a Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry official said that Japan will try to avoid any sudden reduction in its Iranian crude oil imports and may seek some form of exemption from the renewed US sanctions regime.
On the sidelines of a conference in Azerbaijan Wednesday, Daisuke Hirota, principal deputy director at METI's oil and gas division, played down the prospect of Japan reducing its imports of Iranian crude, something the Petroleum Association of Japan has said could happen from October.
He noted Japan had an exemption from the US and EU-led sanctions regime earlier in the decade.
"We continued to import about 170,000 b/d from Iran and now we continue to import from Iran at this level," he told S&P Global Platts. "We think to continue to get the exemption from the US to keep this amount of imports from Iran."
"Japanese companies don't want to stop imports suddenly," he said, adding the US position needed clarifying. "The situation in the US government is drastically changing every day."
"Now we are collecting information and keeping in touch with the US government," he added. "We need to continue to keep imports, and to keep imports from Iran we need to get information and communication with the US government."
Japan imported an average of 165,481 b/d of Iranian oil in fiscal 2017-18 (April-March), down 28% from the previous fiscal year, and Iranian imports accounted for 5.2% of Japan's total crude imports of 3.19 million b/d in the fiscal year ended on March 31, according to the METI data.
US president Donald Trump said on May 8 that the US would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose sanctions that have been frozen since January 2016 as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
International buyers of Iranian oil have until November 4 to wind down contracts before the US re-imposes sanctions on the oil, energy, shipping and insurance sectors, a US Treasury Department fact sheet showed.
The US will also consider allowing countries to continue importing Iranian crude oil, as long as they demonstrate they are significantly reducing those volumes every 180 days, the fact sheet showed.
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