Japan may be granted waivers from US sanctions on crude oil imports from Iran in return for cutting the imported amount to a certain extent, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba indicated Wednesday.
"We have not reached an agreement yet on how much Japan will reduce Iranian oil imports, but we are significantly moving forward towards mutual understanding," Gemba told a press conference when asked whether Japan can be exempt from US penalties related to sanctions against Iran.
The US said it will punish financial institutions that deal with Iran's central bank by making it effectively impossible to operate in the US.
But a country can win a waiver from the ban if it "significantly reduces its volume of crude oil purchases from Iran." Given that Japan has already slashed its imports of Iranian oil by about 40 percent over the past five years, Tokyo has been seeking exemption from the sanctions.
The US sanctions are aimed at cutting off Iran's main source of income to force the country to give up its nuclear ambitions, while Iran has threatened to shut off the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping lane for crude oil, if the US and the European Union impose new sanctions on its crude oil exports.
Resource-poor Japan is buying more fossil fuels to meet electricity demand as nearly all the 54 nuclear reactors have shut down following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident last March, and the nation imports nearly 10 percent of its oil from Iran.