For the first time since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Japan will join the EU and G7 allies to target the country’s energy sector, and Japan will ban coal imports.
“I am banning Russian coal imports. We will reduce our energy dependence on Russia by gradually reducing imports, “said Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday.
Japan is the world’s third-largest coal importer after India and China, and Russia was the country’s second-largest supplier last year, accounting for more than 10 percent of imports.
Energy relations with Russia are sensitive because Japan’s extensive liquefied natural gas (LNG) and oil projects are jointly developed and operated by Sakhalin and Arctic state-owned companies. Some of Japan’s largest cities also rely heavily on the country for energy, with Hiroshima importing half of its gas supplies from Russia and Tokyo about 10 percent.
The government has said Japan will not back down from the projects because of its reliance on energy imports, the need for diversification of supplies and the fact that many of its nuclear power plants were inactive after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
“This is a big step and will challenge Japan to supply from Russia,” said Tom O’Sullivan, energy adviser Matthews. “It could possibly import more coal from Indonesia or Australia.”
“This is not an immediate solution, but obviously investing in solar and wind energy is another answer, such as reducing energy use that Japan did after the Fukushima crisis,” said O’Sullivan.
Separately, South Korean companies have said they have stopped importing Russian coal. An official at Korea Western Power said the company had not made any additional purchases of Russian coal since the Ukraine invasion. “We are following existing agreements but have stopped signing any new agreements with Russia due to concerns about future payments due to international sanctions,” he said.
An official at Korea East-West Power said the company was considering closing new imports from this month. “We imported Russian coal until last month but are now reviewing the situation,” he said.
Kishida said Japan would ban imports of some Russian products, including vodka, bar new investment in the country and seize the assets of Russian banks Sberbank and Alfa-Bank.
Japan’s sanctions on Russia include the seizure of assets of Russian officials and oligarchs, as well as assets of its central and commercial banks and other institutions. Tokyo has banned the export of sensitive technology to Russia and removed some of the country’s banks from the global payment network Swift.
Japan’s response to Ukraine is a sharp reversal of its more reserved position after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. This approach has become popular among the people, according to the poll, which is one of the important reasons for Kishida to face the upper house election in July.