Japan has expressed its inability to align itself with its Western allies to ban energy imports from Russia amid Moscow’s war on Ukraine.
“Japan has limited resources and it is difficult for us to immediately align ourselves with the EU,” Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda told reporters on Wednesday in Washington.
Hagiuda and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi are in the US for bilateral meetings, Kyodo News reported.
Hagiuda said he told US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm that each country has a “different energy security situation and each country’s stance is important.”
“It is necessary for countries to do what they can do to keep pace,” he said.
Tokyo has joined the US, UK and other allies in punishing Moscow over the Ukraine war. Hundreds of Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, besides companies and organizations, have been sanctioned by Japan.
In a tit-for-tat move, Russia on Wednesday imposed sanctions on 63 Japanese senior officials, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
EU is also mulling banning all oil imports from Russia by the end of this year
During meetings in the US capital, Tokyo and Washington noted “the importance of maintaining energy security” as the Ukraine war continues to destabilize global energy supplies.
Japan also asked Washington to increase liquefied natural gas output to reduce dependence on Russian imports, Hagiuda said, adding: “Japan is considering providing loans to Japanese firms which take part in the US LNG projects.”
Japan imported around 3.6 % of its crude oil and 8.8% of its LNG from Russia last year.
Japan banned Russian coal imports, joining EU and G7 allies to target the country’s energy sector for the first time following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. “I am banning imports of Russian coal. By gradually reducing the imports we will lower our energy dependence on Russia,” prime minister Fumio Kishida said on Friday, adding that Japan would focus on renewables and nuclear power to replace lost supplies.
Japan is the world’s third-largest coal importer after India and China, and Russia was the country’s second-largest supplier last year, accounting for more than 10 per cent of imports. The energy relationship with Russia is sensitive as Japan has extensive liquefied natural gas (LNG) and oil projects jointly developed and operated with state-owned companies in Sakhalin and the Arctic. Some of Japan’s biggest cities are also heavily reliant on the country for energy, with Hiroshima importing half of its gas supplies from Russia and Tokyo about 10 per cent.
Andalou with additional input by GVS