Japan lukewarm on sanctions?

What does the United States’ closest ally in East Asia think about Iran’s nuclear ambitions? With Japan’s support of U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, it might seem unlikely that Japan would join the ranks of Russia, China, and now France in shunning broad sanctions against Iran for enriching uranium. But don’t be surprised if ...

607049_Tanigaki5.jpg
607049_Tanigaki5.jpg

What does the United States' closest ally in East Asia think about Iran's nuclear ambitions? With Japan's support of U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, it might seem unlikely that Japan would join the ranks of Russia, China, and now France in shunning broad sanctions against Iran for enriching uranium. But don't be surprised if there's a rift in the U.S.-Japan alliance: Japan, which imports almost all of its petroleum, receives about 14 percent of its oil from Iran. 

While the issue of nuclear non-proliferation is very important for Japan, securing sufficient oil supplies is in the national interest," Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said in an August 23 speech to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo.

It's in this spirit that talks between Japan and Iran on a $2 billion deal to develop Iran's Azadegan oil field, one of the world's largest, are continuing, perhaps because Tehran threatened to pursue a deal with China or Russia if Japan continued to dawdle.

What does the United States’ closest ally in East Asia think about Iran’s nuclear ambitions? With Japan’s support of U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, it might seem unlikely that Japan would join the ranks of Russia, China, and now France in shunning broad sanctions against Iran for enriching uranium. But don’t be surprised if there’s a rift in the U.S.-Japan alliance: Japan, which imports almost all of its petroleum, receives about 14 percent of its oil from Iran. 

While the issue of nuclear non-proliferation is very important for Japan, securing sufficient oil supplies is in the national interest,” Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said in an August 23 speech to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo.

It’s in this spirit that talks between Japan and Iran on a $2 billion deal to develop Iran’s Azadegan oil field, one of the world’s largest, are continuing, perhaps because Tehran threatened to pursue a deal with China or Russia if Japan continued to dawdle.

So, the Japanese could still end up supporting sanctions on Iran’s non-petroleum exports. But with the price of oil so high and oil accounting for 80 percent of Iran’s exports, sanctioning the other 20 percent is unlikely to halt Iran’s enrichment activities. That—coupled with the scheduled retirement of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, known to have close ties with President Bush—may presage a turbulent future with our allies across the Pacific.

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