South Korea, Japan want U.S. to exempt them from Iran oil sanctions

February 1, 2012 - 15:59
TOKYO/SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea and Japan will soon meet U.S. officials in Washington to ask how much oil they can import from Iran under new sanctions that leave the Asian nations with few alternative sources for energy, government officials said Wednesday.
Japan is the world's third biggest oil consumer, and South Korea is the fifth largest.
Both nations import significant amounts of crude from Iran, which they are under pressure to cut back to secure a waiver from a U.S. law imposing sanctions on financial institutions that trade with Iran's central bank.
Japan's foreign ministry said a delegation was due to hold talks in Washington Thursday as part of ongoing consultations and would seek clarity on the law, which is part of a raft of sanctions aimed at reining in Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"We don't know what the Americans want until we hold the meeting," a government official said.
The official said Japan would explain the nature of its trade with Iran, as well as ask the United States to exempt Japanese banks from sanctions. No concrete steps are expected to be agreed upon, he added.
South Korea's foreign ministry said a technical team was planning to visit the United States to discuss the Iranian sanctions, but would not give details about the trip.
South Korea, a key U.S. ally, has warned the United States it would have difficulty replacing Iranian crude supplies.