TOKYO: Japan will divert part of its imported liquefied natural gas to Europe amid tensions over Ukraine, industry minister Koichi Hagiuda said Wednesday.
The unprecedented move comes in response to requests from the United States and Europe amid concerns that natural gas supplies to the region may be disrupted in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Hagiuda met separately with European Union Ambassador to Japan Patricia Flor and US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel to notify them of the decision.
“I welcome and highly appreciate Japan’s support, which is an excellent reflection of our long-standing close cooperation,” Flor said.
Based on a Japanese government request, major trading firms will provide Europe with some of the LNG in which they hold interests but have not decided to whom they will sell.
Several LNG carriers are expected to change destination and arrive in Europe in March. Each vessel carries about 70,000 tons of LNG.
Separately, LNG that was slated to be sold to Europe from the beginning is also headed to the continent on carriers.
“We decided on the cooperation after (earlier) requests from both ambassadors,” Hagiuda said at a press conference following his meetings. “We’ll first ensure a stable supply of LNG to Japan and then transfer the surplus to Europe.”
Japan has enough LNG to meet its electricity and gas needs for two to three weeks and will cooperate to the extent that the domestic supply is not affected.
“The decision is based on a request from the United States, our ally, and the severe shortage of gas in Europe,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.
Much of the natural gas consumed in Europe is supplied by Russia through pipelines. The United States and Europe plan to impose economic sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine, and Russia may halt the supply of gas to Europe in response.