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"The embassy of the Republic of Korea denies any claims that it would not lift any Iranian crude and condensate in July," Xinhua reported on Saturday, after last week Reuters quoted sources as saying Iran’s third-largest oil importer had announced it would stop buying crude from it in anticipation of U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
"The Korean government is negotiating with the United States to get exemptions from the restrictions on Iranian oil purchases," the embassy also said in its statement.
South Korea has been importing Iranian crude at a daily rate of some 296,000 bpd since late March (the start of the Iranian year) and is one of several importers that are trying to win waivers for Iranian crude shipments from Washington.
For now, the chances of these waivers being granted remain slim, although a senior State Department official last week said Washington may deal with such requests on a case by case basis, suggesting that there may be some space for negotiations.
Last Friday, unnamed sources told Reuters that the Korean government had pressured refiners into suspending orders for July shipments of Iranian crude, which is the first time this has happened since 2012.
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Earlier this month, Reuters also reported that South Korea had upped crude oil imports from Kazakhstan, already looking for alternative supplies as the November 4 deadline for the sanctions draws nearer.
South Korea is the world’s fifth-largest crude oil importer, and diversity of supplies is vital. The last time there were sanctions against Iran, South Korea managed to score a waiver by pledging to cut the amount of crude it buys from Tehran.
Now, however, Washington is set on reducing Iran’s oil exports to zero, which is making all of its Asian allies unhappy. Japan is also trying to find a way around a complete cut of Iranian imports, and so is India.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.