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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #335: February 21, 2006

Japan's Vote Against Iran Will Not End Oil Field Project - Reports

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Japan's Vote Against Iran Will Not End Oil Field Project - Reports


Iran's intention to advance its nuclear development has placed Japan in a difficult position.

Japan has always been in need of energy from outside sources since it ended self-imposed isolation policy in the mid-19th century. In one respect, WWII was a battle for Japan to secure energy (re)sources. Upon learning it the hard way that prosperity cannot be sought through wars, Japan pledged to stay as a peaceful state, with a belief that peace is the foundation of affluence.

Accordingly, Japan was one of the few countries which maintained a reasonably good relationship with Iran after their "Islamic Revolution" in 1979 and the immediately followed seizure of the US Embassy in Teheran by militant students. Not that Japan sided with Iran, it but kept the line open which helped avoiding an all-out war. Iran, although often self-indulgent in seeking its own goals, have acknowledged Japan's stance and considered it, perhaps not to the extent of viewing it as an ally, but definitely not as an enemy. The relationship has been stable, and trade between the two countries - either including or excluding oil - grew steadily over the years.

In recent years, Japan imported approx. 1.5 billion barrels annually. Of which, Saudi Arabia and UAE each provided about 25%, and Iran 15%, while others' shares are each less than 10%. On the other hand, more than 25% of Iran's oil export is sold to Japan, followed by Korea and China each taking about 10%.

In February 2004, Japan's Inpex Corporation, of which the government owns 36-percent stake, won 75 percent of development rights of the Azadegan field, located in the Southeastern Iran. It raised the eyebrows of the U.S., arguably Japan's closest ally, but it was considered important to acquire the rights there, with estimated reserves of 26 billion barrels, being one of the largest in the Middle East. A full-scale development of the field was to begin this spring, as mines from the Iran-Iraq war has been removed finally to acceptable levels.

Iran's announcement on nuclear development at this juncture is serious, to say the least. Not only because it is against the will of the international society where Japan has many close friends, but it is for the sake of Japan's own agenda. Being the only country attacked with nuclear bombs and have experienced the grievousness, Japan strongly condemns any possibility of nuclear-armament development by anyone.

It is Japan's strong desire to successfully develop the Azadegan oil field, but at the same time, turning a blind eye to a possible nuclear arms development is too painful in respect of Japan's credo. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who was ambassador to Japan from 1995 to 1999, is reported to visit Tokyo next week. We can only hope the visit will bring about productive results.

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