Japan, the world’s third-largest coal importer, plans to reduce Russian coal imports gradually while looking for alternative suppliers in the wake of sanctions against Moscow, the industry minister said on Friday.
The move also highlights a potential shift in Japan’s energy procurement policy.
The minister, Koichi Hagiuda, told reporters that Japan will aim over time to end coal imports from Russia, the country’s second-biggest supplier of thermal coal in 2021. He said finding immediate alternative suppliers would be difficult.
Russia accounted for 11% of Japan’s total coal imports in 2021, according to the government data. Russia was 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 the 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 situation,” Hagiuda said.
“We will cooperate with Russian sanctions without inflicting a 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.
Following Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special operation”, Japan has stepped up sanctions ranging from removing Moscow from international payment network SWIFT, to freezing central bank assets.
It also froze assets of Russian officials, oligarchs, banks and other institutions, keeping in step with G7 economies, and banned high-tech exports to Russia.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean OMeara