The U.S. government of President Donald Trump is demanding that Japan and other countries impose a total embargo on crude oil imports from Iran as part of sanctions on Tehran.
The move appears to be aimed at depriving Iran of its key source of funds and achieving a stricter nuclear deal.
If implemented, financial institutions dealing in Iranian crude oil, including Japanese organizations, could be shut out of the U.S. financial market.
The nuclear deal is still maintained by Iran, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia even after the United States unilaterally pulled out of it in May. If Washington were to be using its huge influence on the global financial market to forcibly try to cause the deal to collapse, the country would deserve criticism that it is too autocratic.
The previous administration of President Barack Obama imposed the embargo on crude oil produced in Iran in 2012, and the EU also implemented a similar measure.
The international community collaborated to impose such severe sanctions on Iran because suspicions that Tehran was developing nuclear arms were strong.
Japan and many other countries slashed their imports of Iranian crude oil, forcing Iran to sit at the negotiation table over its nuclear program and eventually leading to the nuclear deal three years ago.
However, the United States' latest demand for an oil import embargo has not won understanding and support from the countries concerned. The problem is attributable to the Trump administration's decision to unilaterally withdraw from the nuclear agreement.
The pillar of the deal is for the countries involved to lift their sanctions on Iran in return for Tehran limiting its nuclear development. International organizations have recognized that the countries concerned have observed the accord.
However, the Trump government withdrew from the agreement, citing that it was flawed, despite opposition from Japan and European countries, and declared that it would reinstate its sanctions. It is only natural that the international community does not support such a move without justifiable reason.
The Trump administration is poised to impose sanctions on Iran in November, and will not accept any exceptions. Therefore, such a move would have a huge impact on Japan, which relies on Iran for 5.5 percent of the crude oil it procures.
It is not permissible to unilaterally break an international agreement and intervene in other countries' energy policies while taking private companies hostage.
However, Japan remains undecided over how to respond to the demand. While continuing to support the nuclear deal, Tokyo has expressed understanding of the Trump government's decision. The Japanese government is seeking to continue to import certain amounts of oil from Iran without criticizing the U.S. demand for an oil import embargo.
It is inappropriate for Japan to overlook the United States' unreasonable move for fear of negative reactions from Washington.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should resolutely reject the U.S. demand for an embargo on oil imports from Iran, and urge Washington to reconsider its decision to impose sanctions on Tehran.