Japan Agrees to Cut Iranian Oil Imports

Posted January 12th, 2012 at 1:10 am (UTC-5)
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Japan has promised to reduce Iranian oil imports in support of U.S. sanctions aimed at pressuring Iran to end its controversial nuclear program.

Finance Minister Jun Azumi said Thursday that Japan – which relies on Iran for 10 percent of its oil – will take “concrete steps” to cut the amount of oil it imports from Iran.

“We intend to further reduce the 10 percent share [of oil exports we get from Iran] in a planned manner as quickly as possible.”

Azumi says Japan has already been steadily reducing Iranian oil imports over the past five years. He says Tokyo understands the Iranian nuclear issue is of international concern.

“Nuclear development is something the world cannot shut its eyes to, and so we do understand the United States' position.”

Azumi made his comments after meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who immediately welcomed the move.

“We very much appreciate the support Japan has provided standing with us and the international community in support of this very important strategic objective.”

Geithner is on a three-day diplomatic tour of China and Japan. He is attempting to secure international support for new U.S. penalties that bar foreign banks that do business with Iran's central bank – which processes most oil purchases in Iran – from U.S. financial markets.

“We are exploring ways, as I said, to cut off the central bank from the international financial system and to reduce the earnings Iran derives from its oil exports.”

Geithner said his Asia trip is part of the early stages of a broad, global diplomatic effort to increase pressure on Tehran, which Washington suspects is secretly working to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear objectives are peaceful.

On Wednesday, Geithner wrapped up a two-day visit with Chinese officials in Beijing. But China gave no public hint it is willing to go along with the U.S. measures.

China – which buys almost one-third of Iran's oil exports – says the sanctions are unilateral and predicts they will not be effective in gaining Iran's cooperation.