Japan considers sending natural gas to Europe in contingency over Ukraine
Japan is weighing an option to divert part of its natural gas reserves to Europe in case Russia restricts gas supplies to the region in response to projected sanctions following a Russian invasion of Ukraine, government sources said Thursday.
Japan is likely to seek coordination with other countries in supporting Europe, which heavily relies on natural gas supplies from Russia through pipelines.
The United States has warned Moscow of sanctions if Russian forces invade neighboring Ukraine as Russian troops have been positioned near the border.
Some U.S. media have reported that the administration of President Joe Biden has spoken with officials from major natural gas importers in Asia including Japan and South Korea about diverting gas supplies to Europe.
“We would like to think how we can contribute to the international community,” Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda told reporters.
The top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, said at a news conference that Japan has been closely communicating with the United States and European countries, indicating coordinated efforts would proceed smoothly.
At the same time, there are concerns in the government that natural gas reserves in Japan are not in great abundance either.
While the stock of liquefied natural gas in the country, which fuels thermal power plants, is higher this winter than the last season, there have been situations in the past in which the reserves were depleted.
When a cold wave hit Japan from December 2020 to January 2021, utilities had to ask households to save power as LNG reserves dropped as electricity demand soared.
Following such incidents, the industry ministry decided last October to continue close monitoring of LNG reserves in the country.