SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Japan, South Korea and other major oil importers welcomed Tuesday the decision by the Trump administration to let them continue to import Iranian crude oil and other petroleum products despite the re-imposition of sanctions on Tehran.
The risk of excessive disruption to world markets was a key factor behind the decision to allow exemptions for some of the biggest, most oil-thirsty economies. It appeared to have paid off.
As of midday Tuesday oil prices had fallen moderately, with benchmark U.S. crude down 0.3 percent and Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, down nearly 0.4 percent. The fear was that the sanctions deadline would have pushed oil prices sharply higher.
Five of the eight economies granted waivers as long as they work to reduce oil imports from Iran to zero are in Asia: China, India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The others were Greece, Italy and Turkey.
The sanctions on Iran were lifted under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. President Donald Trump rejected that accord, and on Monday the U.S. Treasury Department imposed penalties on more than 700 Iranian and Iranian-linked individuals, entities, aircraft and vessels in the new sanctions.
The new sanctions were particularly aimed at Iran's vital oil industry, which provides a crucial source of hard currency.
Japan said it was pleased to be temporarily spared from possible penalties for importing Iranian oil.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Tokyo was analyzing the potential impact and was in close consultations with the U.S. on protecting Japanese companies from "adverse consequences."
Those would include penalties for breaking long-term oil purchasing agreements.