Japan said it purchased about 321,000 barrels of Iranian crude oil per day in February. That's about 16 percent higher than the same time last year and the highest level since March 2012, Bloomberg News reports.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in mid-March said that Japan and 10 EU members qualified for an exception to Iranian sanctions for moving away from Tehran's oil sector. They're shielded from sanctions targeting Iran's energy sector because of "significant reductions" in the volume of crude oil they purchased from Iran.
Osamu Fujisawa, an energy economist and former employee at the Saudi Arabian Oil Co. told Bloomberg that, despite the increase, Japan was reducing oil imports year-on-year.
"I don't think the oil companies are worrying about Iranian crude imports," he said. "They take a look at the annual figures from last year and see they were quite low."
The United States and its European allies imposed sanctions on Iran's energy sector to starve it of revenue that could fund a nuclear program, which Iran says is for peaceful purposes.