China rejects US demands on Iran oil; Japan bows

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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (front, R) meets with US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who is visiting China to drum up support for US sanctions on Iran. The meeting took place in Beijing, on 11 January 2012. Photo - Xie Huanchi/Xinhua

China rejected the US sanctions as unilateral and refused to lend its support for US sanctions on Iran, and stressed both Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency should ‘enhance co-operation’.

According to state news agency Xinhua, China urged the United States to fully take care of each other’s core interests and major concerns, enhance mutual trust, and properly handle differences. “This is conducive to jointly addressing the challenges, promote common interests and ensure the Sino-US relations to advance on the correct track,” Wen said.

Earlier, the US Treasury Secretary met Premier Wen Jiabao, Vice-President Xi Jinping and Vice-Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday and counterpart Vice Premier Wang Qishan on Tuesday night In Beijing.

Analysts in Beijing also praised the Chinese government’s stance and said the country had no reason to support the sanctions. “China does not want to be seen as helping the US when China’s own interest is concerned,” said Wang Lian, an Iran expert at Peking University’s School of International Relations.

SUBMISSION

On the other hand, Japan assured the United States it will take drastic measures to curtail Iranian oil imports and reduce dependency on the world’s fourth biggest oil producer.

The announcement came when US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner reached Tokyo and met with Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi to drum up support for economic sanctions against Iran. Washington insists Tehran is working on a nuclear programme but has not been able to back up its allegations with substantial facts. Iran denies the allegations and insists it is pursuing its right to a peaceful civilian nuclear programme.

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US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, left, shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Jun Azumi after their joint press conference in Tokyo on Thursday, 12 January 2012. Photo - Koji Sasahara/AP

“We would like to take action concretely to further reduce (that) in a planned manner,” Azumi said after meeting Geithner.

The top Japanese financial official added that Iranian crude makes up 10% of his country’s overall oil imports.

“On the other hand, we need some time in non-crude oil related areas, so I asked the Secretary to take Japan’s situation into consideration.”

US President Barack Obama imposed further sanctions on any financial institutions that are dealing with the Iranian central bank, the country’s main facilitator of oil payments, on 31 December last year.

UNDER PRESSURE

Announcement by the Japanese government brings much risk to the country’s economy which is still reeling from last year’s earthquake and tsunami which strained power supply and dented hi-tech manufacturing. The complete meltdown of Fukushima nuclear power plant also put pressure on the government to scrap nuclear energy and replace it with safer energy production modes.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, despite submitting to the American demands, expressed deep concerns about the impact of US sanctions on Iran and its repercussions on the world economy.

His government is seeking a waiver from Washington’s potential sanctions on its banks by replacing Iranian crude oil imports with that from Saudi Arabia and other GCC nations.

Japan is already under pressure from the US chided her for intervening in the currency market to stem the rise of its yen.

Despite Japanese Finance Minister’s insistence on having meaningful discussions with his American counterpart, Geithner declined to comment on the nature of the talks.

DIPLOMATIC DETERRENCE

China announced its Premier Wen Jiabao will visit Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar this weekend to discuss the oil situation and the ramifications of US sanctions on Iranian exports. South Korean prime minister will also be heading to the region on Friday as his country’s financial institutions also face possible sanctions for dealing with its major crude oil client.

The intense diplomatic activity comes days after Japanese Foreign Minister Kiochiro Gemba visited the rich oil-producing countries in the Gulf and signed deals with Saudi Arabia and GCC countries to secure further oil imports in a bid to substitute Iranian supplies.

Meanwhile, Brazil and Turkey, the two non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, on Wednesday voted against the draft resolution of the UN Security Council to impose new sanctions against Iran. Lebanon, another non-permanent member of the Security Council, abstained from the vote.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected the UNSC draft resolution against Iran and termed it as used towel that should be thrown in waste bin. “They cannot harm Iranians,” the semi-official ISNA news agency quoted him saying during a visit to Tajikistan.

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