Japan's new minister of economy, trade and industry, Shoichi Nakagawa, admitted that the "nuclear issue is too important for our country to overlook" and that it takes priority over seeking the rights to field. The new minister recently assumed the post following a Cabinet reshuffle in Tokyo on Monday.
Nakagawa statement is seen as an about turn on the previous stance of the ministry, which was to push for the development of the field while still pressing Iran to clear itself of allegations, brought about by the United States and the international community, of using its nuclear program to create weapons of mass destruction.
The recent discovery of high-density, weapons-grade uranium at an enrichment facility in Iran certainly could not have helped to assure Japanese fears on the matter.
Preferential negotiating rights to the Azadegan field, granted in 2000 to a state-sponsored Japanese consortium, expired this year and Iran has recently revealed that it was planning a tender for non-Japanese companies like Royal Dutch/Shell Group, Total SA and Sinopec Corp to gain the rights to Azadegan unless Tokyo goes back to the negotiating table.