Seoul secures oil support in Middle East

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Seoul secures oil support in Middle East

Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik returned home yesterday from a trip to Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), having won their support for a stable crude oil supply to Seoul amid U.S.-led pressure to cut back on Iranian imports.

South Korea on Tuesday agreed to cooperate with U.S.-led sanctions on Iran over its suspected nuclear program, after Washington asked Seoul to reduce its crude oil imports from the Middle East country. Last year, South Korea imported 9.8 percent of its crude oil needs from Iran, a total of 82.9 million barrels.

In his seven-day trip, Kim secured oil guarantees from the Middle East countries in the eventuality that political instability surrounding Iran affects Seoul’s oil supply. Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said vowed to help South Korea if it had difficulty in importing crude, according to Kim’s office.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, offered to provide South Korea with crude oil first in any energy market crisis, while suggesting a dialogue channel to further discuss oil supply, the officials said. Oman and the UAE accounted for 2 and 10 percent, respectively, of South Korea’s 846 million barrels of crude oil imports last year, according to government data.

South Korea, which doesn’t produce oil, is the world’s fifth-largest crude oil importer. During the trip, Kim also attended the fifth World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi and, in his keynote speech, stressed the need for active cooperation between developed and developing countries for the global expansion of renewable energy resources.

On the sidelines of the energy summit, Kim held bilateral talks with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

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