South Korea will resume Iranian crude oil imports at a rate of about 4 million barrels a month, S&P Global Platts reports, citing three unnamed South Korean sources. At the same time, the sources added, the country will continue to look for alternative sources of the commodity.
South Korea is the world’s fifth-largest crude oil importer, and as such an important client for Iran’s oil alongside China and India. Yet South Korea is a close ally of the United States, and it is no surprise the country earlier this year opted for full compliance with Washington’s insistence that importers cut their intake of Iranian crude to zero. In the months between March and July, South Korea had been buying Iranian crude at a daily rate of almost 300,000 barrels. Then, in August, Bloomberg reported South Korean refiners had suspended all purchases of Iranian crude ahead of the November sanctions.
This is what most likely helped South Korea to score a waiver from Washington, along with Japan, China, India, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Taiwan. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, has made a point of emphasizing that the waivers were temporary and that Washington still expected its allies to completely eliminate Iranian crude from their energy mix eventually.
Earlier today, Japan’s minister of trade said Japanese refiners were also about to restart imports of Iranian crude now that the waivers were granted although he declined to mention any volumes.
China, meanwhile, has once again reiterated that it will continue its trade with Iran and has repeated it opposes the U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic as unilateral and “long-arm jurisdiction,” a spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday, when the American sanctions on Iran’s oil, shipping, and banking industry returned. China is carrying out “normal cooperation” with Iran, the spokeswoman said.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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