China Iran oil imports rise as payment dispute resolved

Yuan notes Image copyright AFP
Image caption The payment dispute between Tehran and Beijing had resulted in a drop in oil shipments

China's imports of crude oil from Iran rebounded in May after the two countries resolved a payment dispute.

Beijing imported almost 524,000 barrels per day, a 35% jump from the previous month.

The surge comes even as the US has asked countries to cut oil imports from Iran and threatened to impose sanctions against financial institutions doing business with Iran's energy sector.

Beijing, the biggest buyer of Iranian crude oil, defended its imports.

"China's importing of Iranian oil is based on its own economic development needs," said Hong Lei, a spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry.

"This is fully reasonable and legitimate."

'As normal'

China's economic growth in recent years has seen a rise in demand for energy resources, turning it into one of the biggest consumers of crude oil in the world.

Imports from Iran are key part of Beijing's overall fuel imports.

However, it has been under pressure to cut its imports from Iran after the US threatened that firms dealing with Tehran's energy sector will be cut off from the US financial system.

China's imports from Tehran had fallen significantly in the first four months of the year, but analysts said that was mainly due to the ongoing payment dispute and low seasonal demand.

They said that with the dispute now settled, it was business as usual between the two countries.

"They are quietly carrying on as normal," Tony Regan of consultancy firm TriZen told the BBC.

Mr Regan added that Beijing was also hopeful that the US will grant it some kind of an exemption from the sanctions, not least because of the delicate nature of the US-China relations.

"The US may not want to be seen as the one challenging China on this issue," he said.

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