A new batch of sanctions targeting Iran's oil trade, shipping and banking came into force on Monday. At the same time, the United States temporarily exempted eight nations, including Japan, from the sanctions on importing oil from Iran.
"We have been notified by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry that Japan has been exempt [from the sanctions on] importing oil from Iran. We are about to start to consider whether we import oil from Iran or not at this time," the Showa Shell Sekiyu spokeswoman said.
A spokesman for the Cosmo Energy Holding stated that the company had been notified about the US decision to waive sanctions for Japan but noted that the company would consider further steps upon learning the details.
"We do not know any details. Once we verify it, we will consider our response in terms of importing Iranian crude oil," the spokesman explained.
At the same time, a spokeswoman for the Idemitsu Kosan, a Japanese company working in oil refining, manufacturing and sale of oil products, refused to comment on the company’s plans in light of the sanctions waiver.
"Our company would like to refrain from commenting on its response," the spokeswoman said.
Japan has been cutting down on its crude oil imports from Iran amid the recent spike in Tehran-Washington tensions but still relies heavily on Iranian oil to ensure its energy security. A number of Japanese oil distributors, in particular, the Cosmo Energy Holdings, said in September they did not plan to load any crude oil from Iran in October, while Fuji Oil announced in late August it would stop buying Iranian crude because of difficulties to secure a ship to transport oil, according to a company spokesman.
In May, US President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, and reimpose sanctions against Tehran that were previously lifted under the accord. The first round of the US sanctions was reintroduced in August.