Asahi Shimbun: As a major importer of Iranian oil, Japan’s commitment to nuclear nonproliferation could be severely compromised, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has warned. The Asahi Shimbun
BY SHINICHI IKEDA, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
NEW YORK–As a major importer of Iranian oil, Japan’s commitment to nuclear nonproliferation could be severely compromised, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has warned.
In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun here on Thursday, John Bolton asserted that Tehran is seeking to manipulate Japan. He also questioned Tokyo’s decision to help develop Iran’s huge Azadegan oil field.
“This is what we’ve been worried about, about Iran’s very savvy use of its oil and natural gas resources to apply leverage on countries like Japan and India and China that have large and growing energy demands,” Bolton said.
The United States, along with France and Britain, is pushing for tough wording in a U.N. Security Council resolution that could lead to economic sanctions if Iran continues to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel. The other permanent UNSC members, Russia and China, have opposed the draft resolution. The five countries are to hold talks in London in the coming week to seek a solution.
On Wednesday, Iran’s ambassador in Tokyo warned Japan against backing a push for sanctions.
Japan, a nonpermanent Security Council member, has offered tepid support to the proposed resolution.
Japan relies on Iran for about 15 percent of its crude oil imports. It has already invested billions of yen in developing Azadegan, which may turn out to hold the world’s second-largest reserves of oil.
“Iran is very cynically using the reliance of Japan on Iran for oil–the possibility of the Azadegan oil field and other things–to try to back Japan away from its very principled commitment to nonproliferation,” Bolton said.
Without specifically calling for Japan to back away from the Azadegan deal, Bolton questioned the wisdom of moving forward.
“When you’re looking at a country ruled by a man like (President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad, who threatens to wipe Israel off the map, and who is pursuing nuclear weapons, it is just good due diligence to say, ‘Is this a country we want to invest in?'” Bolton said. Bolton also said the U.S. decision on Monday to restore diplomatic ties with Libya held lessons for both Iran and Japan. He said it showed that options for energy and economic development exist that do not threaten nonproliferation.
“There are all kinds of possibilities, now that economic sanctions are lifted, for exploration and drilling in Libyan oil assets,” Bolton said. “I’m sure that’s something that Japanese planners are considering.”
On Wednesday, Ahmadinejad rejected a European proposal to aid Iran’s civilian nuclear program in return for a suspension of its enrichment program. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, but the technologies it is developing could have military applications.
Bolton said Iran was trying to draw out negotiations over the European proposal to buy time to advance its suspected weapons program.
But the European effort was worthwhile, he said, if only to “show that we’ve gone as far as you can go in trying to achieve a diplomatic solution.”
David Bario contributed to this report.(IHT/Asahi: May 19,2006)