Japan, the world’s third-largest coal importer, plans to reduce Russian imports of the fuel gradually while looking for alternative suppliers in the wake of sanctions against Moscow, the industry minister has said.
The move highlights a potential shift in Japan’s energy procurement policy.
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Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda told reporters on Friday that Japan will aim over time to end coal imports from Russia, the country’s second-biggest supplier of thermal coal in 2021. Hagiuda said finding immediate alternative suppliers would be difficult.
Russia accounted for 11 percent of Japan’s total coal imports in 2021, according to government data. Russia was also Japan’s fifth-biggest supplier of crude and liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2021.
Japan imports nearly all of the coal it consumes, making it the third-largest importer after India and China, according to US Energy Information Administration data.
“We would need to find alternative suppliers or we would face difficulties securing domestic coal which could lead to power outage and such. We need to avoid such a situation,” Hagiuda said.
“We will corporate with Russian sanctions without inflicting burden on domestic industry”.
Japan will coordinate its moves with the United States and European countries, after the Group of Seven (G7) allies issued a statement pledging additional sanctions on Russia in response to its alleged mass killings of civilians in Ukraine.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Thursday that Japan will unveil further sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine as early as Friday after coordinating with G7 allies on further punitive steps.
Since the February 24 invasion, Japan has stepped up sanctions ranging from removing Moscow from the international payment network SWIFT to freezing central bank assets.
It also froze assets of Russian officials, oligarchs, banks and other institutions, and banned high-tech exports to Russia.