Yutaka Katada, president of shipping company Kokuka Sangyo Ltd. points to a picture of their tanker Kokuka Courageous, one of two that were hit in suspected attacks in the Gulf of Oman, during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan June 14, 2019.
Kyodo | Reuters
WASHINGTON — The Japanese owner of one of the oil tankers attacked near Iran on Thursday said the vessel was struck by a projectile and not by a mine, which is what U.S. officials assessed as the source of the blast.
“We received reports that something flew towards the ship,” Yutaka Katada, president of Kokuka Sangyo, said at a press conference Friday. “I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship,” he said, adding that a projectile landed above the waterline.
On Thursday, U.S. Central Command said in a statement that the Japanese oil tanker, Kokuka Courageous, had an “unexploded limpet mine on their hull following an initial explosion.”
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
President Donald Trump said Friday that if Iran were to block the Strait of Hormuz, “it’s not going to be closed for long,” but did not elaborate on what potential steps the U.S. would take in response. “They’re not going to be closing [the strait],” Trump reiterated during a telephone interview on “Fox & Friends.”
Earlier this year, Iran threatened to close the strait in response to a U.S. decision to end waivers on reimposed sanctions for companies that export oil from Iran. The Strait of Hormuz is the world’s most important oil choke point. It’s a gateway for almost a third of all seaborne crude oil.
America’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, blamed Iran for Thursday’s attacks without citing specific evidence as to why Tehran was responsible.
“Iran is lashing out because the regime wants our successful maximum pressure campaign lifted,” Pompeo said Thursday. “No economic sanctions entitle the Islamic Republic to attack innocent civilians, disrupt global oil markets and engage in nuclear blackmail.”
“The international community condemns Iran’s assault on the freedom of navigation and the targeting of innocent civilians,” he said, adding that the U.S. will defend its forces, interests and partners.