Asia's Iran oil imports plunge to 5-year low in Oct

    * Asia's Iran imports at 762,000 bpd in Oct -govt, shipping
    * China, Japan imports sharply down ahead of U.S. sanctions 
    * South Korea imports fall to zero for 2nd straight month 

    By Osamu Tsukimori
    TOKYO, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Imports of Iranian crude oil by
major buyers in Asia hit a five-year low in October, as China,
Japan and South Korea sharply cut purchases ahead of U.S.
sanctions on Tehran that took effect in early November,
government and ship-tracking data showed. 
    China, India, Japan and South Korea last month imported
about 762,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Iran, according to the
data, down 56.4 percent from a year earlier. 
    This marks the lowest volume of shipments since October
2013, when an earlier round of tough U.S. and E.U. sanctions had
slashed exports from the OPEC member starting from early 2012. 
    In reimposing sanctions on Nov. 5 on Iran's energy and
shipping industries, however, Washington also granted exemptions
to China, Japan, South Korea and five other countries, allowing
them to continue buying some Iranian oil for at least another
180 days. 
    India's imports of Iranian oil dropped the least, falling
just 0.2 percent from the same month last year to 466,400 bpd. 
    Most India refiners boosted purchases from Iran ahead of the
U.S. sanctions as Iran was offering almost free shipping and 
extended credit periods, according to oil analysts.
    South Korean oil imports from Iran, though, fell to zero for
a second straight month in October. 
    Japan's oil imports from Iran plunged by 71 percent to a
six-month low of 48,033 bpd last month, trade ministry data
showed on Friday. 
    Japan's imports for November are set to fall to zero for the
first time since July 2012, when the nation's buyers reined in
its appetite to keep from falling afoul of European Union
sanctions targeting insurance. 
    Japan has not imported any crude after the last cargo was
shipped in early October, according to Refinitiv data. 
    South Korea is likely to hold its oil imports from Iran at
zero until the end of the year and resume shipments from
January, industry sources said in mid-November.
    Japan's JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy is likely to load
Iran crude around the end of December, two industry sources
said. A company spokesman said, however, that the company is
considering the purchase but nothing has been decided yet.
    China's imports of Iranian crude tumbled 64 percent in
October to 247,200 bpd. 
    The tables below outline Iran crude imports in bpd by Asia's
biggest buyers for October and the year to date: 
   Nation     Oct-18       Oct-17   yr/yr pct
    China   247,160      685,150        -64.0
    India   466,400      467,600         -0.2
    Japan    48,033      165,535        -71.0
    Korea         -      426,710       -100.0
    Total   761,593    1,744,995        -56.4
  Nation  Jan-Oct 2018   Jan-Oct 2017  yr/yr pct
   China      613,200        634,749        -3.4
   India      579,600        486,400        19.2
   Japan      152,982        165,405        -7.5
   Korea      191,454        423,651       -54.8
   Total    1,537,236      1,710,205       -10.1

 (Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Tom Hogue)