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Asia Minute: Japan still considering whether to ban energy imports from Russia

Japan PM Kishida
Kim Kyung-hoon/AP
Pool Reuters
Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a news conference in Tokyo, Thursday, March 3, 2022. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool Photo via AP)

Now that President Biden has banned U.S. energy imports from Russia, attention has shifted to what other countries may do. One country that’s still considering its options is Japan.

When it comes to energy imports from Russia, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Wednesday his country is consulting with allies, while also, quote “considering a stable supply and security as the best interests of Japan.”

Government figures show Japan imported about 4% of its crude oil from Russia last year, along with about 9% of its liquified natural gas.

Japan has joined the United States and others in putting economic sanctions on Russia, and expanded those restrictions this week.

On Tuesday, Japan’s government banned the export of oil refining equipment to Russia and added to the list of individuals and companies whose assets have been frozen.

But the energy sector is a challenge for Japan, which is dependent on imports.

In fact, Japan is the largest buyer of liquified natural gas in the world.

Figures from the U.S. Commerce Department show Japan’s biggest supplier is Australia, followed by Malaysia and Qatar, while Russia is in fourth place — just ahead of the United States.

Earlier this week, the chairman of the Japan Business Federation said it would be difficult for Japan to quickly replace Russian energy imports.

Japanese companies also own stakes in oil and LNG projects in Russia — and so does Japan’s government.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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