Military action could halt the flow of crude oil imports to South Korea, Japan and China, which together account for 34 percent of seaborne oil trade globally, the consultants said in a Wednesday report.
Under a "worst case scenario," China could permit the release of oil from strategic reserves "for the first time since it started building these 3-4 years ago," said Chris Graham, product suite director for gas and LNG at Wood Mackenzie.
South Korea and Japan could take similar action and both countries have emergency reserves to cover 90 days' worth of demand. Japan may accelerate the re-commissioning of nuclear power generators to compensate for any squeeze on imported oil and gas in the event of a conflict.
For China, its domestic oil production would provide a buffer, but the proximity of key producing basins to the North Korean border leaves the country vulnerable to disruption.