イラン制裁 原油の安定調達へ万全尽くせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 14, 2012)
Every effort must be made to ensure stable oil supply
イラン制裁 原油の安定調達へ万全尽くせ(1月13日付・読売社説)

The United States and European nations are cooperating to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons by imposing economic sanctions in the form of direct and indirect embargoes on crude oil imports from that country.

It is inevitable for Japan to join this effort to exert more pressure on Iran.

However, we must keep to a minimum the possible chaotic effects that would arise from a shortage of crude oil and price hikes.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met Thursday with visiting U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and told him Japan shares the United States' serious concerns on the nuclear issue.

In a separate meeting, Finance Minister Jun Azumi told Geithner that Japan would start gradually reducing oil imports from Iran at an early date.

The sanctions are designed to limit dollar-based transactions in the United States of foreign financial institutions that engage in transactions with the Central Bank of Iran to import Iranian oil.

The sanctions are expected to be imposed in the middle of the year at the earliest.


Cutting funds for N-program

By cracking down on deals between foreign banks and Iran's central bank, the U.S. government hopes to significantly reduce the amount of funds Iran can use for its nuclear development by cutting the country's income from crude oil exports.

The European Union has agreed to impose an embargo on Iranian crude oil.

However, Iran supplies about 10 percent of the oil Japan needs.

The government is in a quandary about how to reduce imports from that country.

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, who recently visited several Middle East countries, asked Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to maintain stable crude oil supplies to Japan and received favorable responses.  中東を歴訪した玄葉外相は、サウジアラビアやアラブ首長国連邦に日本への原油の安定供給を要請し、前向きな回答を得た。

Both public and private sectors should closely cooperate in efforts to ensure sufficient supplies of crude oil from other countries to compensate for the loss of Iranian oil.

What concerns us most is a possible surge in crude oil prices.

With tensions rising over the Iranian situation, crude oil prices have already soared above 100 dollars per barrel in New York and other markets.

If prices increase further, electricity rates and other costs will rise, impacting severely on the Japanese economy.

There also is a possibility that Iran's revenue from crude oil exports will increase if the sanctions do not work as planned.


Invoking criteria ambiguous

A major problem is China, the largest importer of Iranian crude, which opposes sanctions.

We urge China to impose self-restraint and not import oil from Iran by devious means, as Iran is expected to have a crude oil surplus because of the sanctions.

Fundamentally, the criteria for imposing U.S. sanctions are ambiguous.

Noda told Geithner the sanctions "could have a serious impact on the Japanese and world economies" depending on how they are managed, and he asked that the method of imposing the sanctions be improved. We think his demand is reasonable.

The government needs to continuously press the U.S. government to exempt Japanese banks from the financial transaction restrictions.

Iran has reacted fiercely to the current situation and threatened, for instance, to close the Strait of Hormuz, a major crude oil shipping lane, if sanctions are imposed.

Japan, the United States and EU must carefully continue efforts to avoid unfavorable developments by using a combination of sanctions and dialogue with Iran.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 13, 2012)
(2012年1月13日01時29分 読売新聞)

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