US looks to expand Strait of Hormuz oil security initiative after Saudi attacks

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The US appears to be making another push to expand its maritime security initiative to protect oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz as regional tensions rise following the attacks on key Saudi oil facilities.

The US made another request to import-dependent Japan to join the coalition, and leaders are expected to discuss it at the UN General Assembly in New York next week.

“We’re welcoming every country to join us in the International Maritime Security Construct effort, along with the UK, Australia, and Bahrain, and we are confident that we’ll have more to announce on its progress soon,” a Department of State spokeswoman said Tuesday. “We welcome all constructive ideas from our allies and partners on protecting freedom of the seas.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi to join the US-led coalition during a phone call Monday.

Pompeo spoke of the “need for all nations to ensure safe transit for all through the Strait of Hormuz and the importance of the need for all nations to contribute to that vital global mission,” State spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

Japan’s defense minister said in August the country was considering joining the coalition as it looked for ways to protect its energy security.

Middle East oil accounted for 89% of Japan’s imports, or an average of 3.07 million b/d, over in the first six months of 2019, according to Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry data.

Ship operators in the Middle East have been on high alert and insurance rates have soared since tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman in May and June. The US has blamed Iran for the attacks, although Iran denies responsibility. Tensions escalated after the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, reimposing sanctions on the country.

Iran has repeatedly issued threats to close or disrupt traffic through the Strait of Hormuz should the US sanctions block its oil shipments. About 30% of the world’s seaborne oil transits the Strait of Hormuz.

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