Imports of Iranian crude oil by major buyers in Asia rose to the highest in five months in March as China’s purchases surged ahead of possible new sanctions on the Middle Eastern nation, government and ship-tracking data showed.
China, India, Japan and South Korea last month imported a total of 1.73 million barrels per day (bpd) from Iran, the data showed. That was 12.5 percent lower than a year earlier but the most since October.
A May 12 deadline is looming for U.S. President Donald Trump to decide on whether to re-impose U.S. economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted in 2016 after an agreement was reached with world powers on Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme.
French President Emmanuel Macron this week said he had discussed a “new deal” with Trump in which the United States and Europe would tackle outstanding concerns about Iran beyond its nuclear programme. Macron also said he expected Trump to pull the U.S. out of the deal.
China’s imports of Iranian crude in March surged to 726,000 bpd, up nearly 16 percent from a year earlier and rebounding from below 500,000 bpd in February.
India’s imports from Iran were down 18 percent to about 430,000 bpd last month. South Korea’s purchases were down by more than a third.
Imports into Japan dropped about 12 percent from a year earlier to 196,663 bpd, data from the country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry showed on Friday.