Japan PM in Qatar explores energy security, LNG on final leg of Gulf tour

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Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited gas-rich Qatar on Tuesday as he wraps up a Gulf tour centered on energy security and cooperation with Tokyo’s main suppliers.

Tokyo is looking to work closely with Qatar to stabilize the global market for liquified natural gas (LNG), Kishida earlier told the official Qatar News Agency.

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He flew to Doha, on the first visit there by a Japanese premier in 10 years, from the United Arab Emirates after starting his tour in Saudi Arabia where he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The last Japanese premier to embark on a Gulf tour was Shinzo Abe in 2020.

Kishida and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani discussed “developments related to energy security and supplies,” the Qatari leader said in a statement.

They will attend a Japan-Qatar meeting that aims to “promote cooperation in energy security and in the field of clean energy and decarbonization,” said Japan’s foreign ministry.

“The two countries will announce their expectations for further participation by Japanese corporations in large-scale projects, including upstream LNG projects.”

The Doha visit comes as Japanese companies are negotiating new long-term LNG supply contracts with Qatar, according to Bloomberg.

It said Japan’s LNG importers have not signed a contract with Qatar since 2014, and that Qatari LNG deliveries to Tokyo dropped by more than 60 percent last year.

Japan’s top LNG importer, Jera, did not renew contracts that expired in 2021 for gas supply of 5.5 million tonnes per year, Bloomberg said.

Since Russia’s Ukraine invasion, “Japan has been suffering from potential LNG disruption,” said Takafumi Yanagisawa, a researcher with Japan’s Institute of Energy Economics.

“Japan needs to secure more LNG from Qatar,” he told AFP, arguing that a deal would provide Tokyo with “stable and reliable LNG supply.”

China, meanwhile, has inked some of the industry’s longest-running contracts with Qatar. Last month, Doha announced a 27-year deal to supply four million tonnes annually to the China National Petroleum Corporation.

It matches the terms of a November deal with China’s Sinopec as the longest ever seen in the industry.

China, Japan, South Korea and other Asian countries are the main market for Qatari gas, which has been increasingly sought by European countries too since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine early last year.

By expanding activities at North Field, which has the world’s biggest natural gas reserves and extends under the Gulf into Iranian territory, Qatar expects to raise its LNG production by at least 60 percent, taking it to 126 million tonnes a year by 2027.

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