S Korea Suspends Iran Oil Loading under US Pressure: Sources
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – South Korea will not lift any Iranian crude and condensate in July, halting all shipments for the first time in six years amid US pressure to cut all imports of Iranian oil from November, three sources familiar with the matter said.
The move by South Korea, one of Iran’s main customers in Asia along with China and Japan, comes as it is in talks to seek an exemption from US curbs on buying Iranian oil, in line with a waiver it received during previous sanctions, Reuters reported.
“There was pressure from the South Korean government to halt purchases,” said the source familiar with Iranian shipping arrangements. “South Korea overall is lifting zero oil (from Iran) for July loading.”
Two other sources said South Korea canceled July loadings of crude and condensate cargoes from Iran as it was uncertain whether the country would receive an exemption from US sanctions on Iran trade.
The cancellations mean South Korea will import no Iranian oil in August, the first month of zero imports since August 2012 when South Korean buyers put Iranian oil purchases on hold before getting a waiver to import limited amounts of Iran crude.
The United States in May said it was walking away from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. In late June, it demanded its allies halt all imports of Iranian oil from November and said exemptions were unlikely.
South Korean refiners have since curtailed their Iranian oil purchases and turned to alternative sources such as American and African crude due to expensive Middle East grades and uncertainty over trade with Iran.
South Korean buyers of Iranian crude and condensate are SK Energy and SK Incheon Petrochemical, owned by SK Innovation, Hyundai Oilbank Corp and Hanwha Total Petrochemical Co.