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Japan to cut oil imports from Iran

(Xinhua)

08:38, January 13, 2012

BEIJING - Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi said Tokyo has agreed to cut Iranian oil imports after meeting visiting US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Thursday.

Emphasizing that Japan "fully understands the efforts of the US", Azumi said the government would like to reduce oil imports from Iran by 40 percent over the next five years.

Geithner, who has been in Asia this week lobbying international support for oil sanctions against Iran, said he appreciated Japan's cooperation. The Japanese government has been making efforts to minimize its dependence on Iranian crude in the past few years.

Azumi said that oil from Iran currently constitutes 10 percent of Japan's overall imports.

Japanese leaders have hoped their ally would grant a waiver for three Japanese banks amid a law signed by US President Barack Obama on Dec 31, authorizing sanctions on financial institutions that have dealings with Iran's central bank.

Geithner also met Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Thursday. Noda expressed his concerns on the possible "serious damage" to the Japanese economy due to sanctions on Iran, Nikkei Shimbun reported.

"As for energy-short Japan, it has made a difficult decision to follow the US," said Zhou Yongsheng, a professor of Japanese studies at China Foreign Affairs University.

Zhou said that only six of the 54 nuclear reactors in Japan are operational due to the March 2011 earthquake. As a result, local enterprises starving for power have equipped themselves with diesel generators.

"So, the practically urgent need for more fuel will make the reduction even more difficult," Zhou said.

Shi Yinhong, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said he was not surprised by Japan's position since it is "America's longtime ally".

"Geithner's two-stop Asia trip is merely a prelude. The US's attempt to block Iran this time is unprecedentedly strong."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin's said on Wednesday that China and Iran maintained a normal, open and transparent energy trade and economic cooperation, which is not related to the nuclear issue and does not violate the UN Security Council resolutions.

And Liu emphasized as a developing country, China's demand for energy is "reasonable".

"It is totally absurd in regards of principle, morality or national interest for China to accept the arrogant demands of the US," Shi added. "But more and more countries will compromise under the increasing pressure of Washington. Energy now becomes another variable and sensitive issue for Sino-US relations."

According to Phoenix TV, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday that a second US aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, has arrived in the Gulf region, making tensions in the region worse.

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