Japan’s LNG dependence on the Middle East is approximately 20%, with Qatar being one of its biggest suppliers.
Japan is keen on working alongside Qatar to transform possibilities into realities over the next five decades, Prime Minister Kishida Fumio said ahead of his first official visit to Qatar since taking office.
“Over the next 50 years, I would like to work with His Highness the Amir to turn these possibilities into a reality,” Fumio said during an interview with Qatar News Agency ahead of the planned trip.
Kishida is set to meet Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Tuesday to explore possibilities of collaboration in the energy sector.
Kishida’s visit to Qatar marks the final stage of his three-country tour in the Middle East, having already visited Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
During the meeting, Kishida aims to seek Qatar’s support, one of the world’s top exporters of liquefied natural gas, to ensure a reliable and steady supply of liquified natural gas (LNG).
The Japanese official referred to Doha as a significant ally for Japan, emphasising that the two nations have steadily fostered their relationship, though noted it is not limited to the energy sector but across various domains.
In the interview, he said his visit to Qatar would present an excellent opportunity to engage in discussions aimed at reinforcing bilateral cooperation.
“For many years, the stable supply of LNG and oil from Qatar has supported Japan’s economic growth, allowing Japan and Qatar to steadily develop a mutually beneficial relationship. Since the 1990s, Japanese companies have contributed to the full-scale construction of LNG plants in Qatar,” Kishida said.
Japan is the largest LNG buyer in the world, importing 74,463,881 tonnes in 2020. Last year, Tokyo’s imports reached 71.99 million tonnes, overtaking China as one of the biggest importers of LNG.
In February 2021, a contract was granted to a Japanese firm to undertake the development and construction of LNG plants as part of the North Field Expansion Project, a crucial element in Qatar’s growth and prosperity, the prime minister said.
Japanese companies, he added, have played a significant role in building essential infrastructure in Qatar, including the Doha Metro and Hamad International Airport. “I am very pleased that Japanese high-tech companies continue to contribute to the further development of Qatar,” Kishida said.
The PM also reaffirmed Tokyo’s gratitude for the Gulf nation’s assistance during the 11 March earthquake that struck Japan in 2011, one of the strongest earthquake in the country’s recorded history.
Qatar’s lending arm included an additional supply of four million tonnes of LNG and $100 million in support funds.
He also highlighted that Doha has provided substantial aid to Japan in various situations, such as evacuating Japanese nationals and local staff from Afghanistan and cooperating with Qatar Airways to repatriate Japanese citizens from Russia.
These acts exemplify the deep friendship shared between the two nations, Kishida said.
Cooperation in energy fields
Regarding Japan’s goal announced in October 2020 to achieve a carbon-neutral and decarbonised society by 2050, and the global movement towards a greener society, Kishida weighed in on the importance of expanding cooperation between Qatar and Japan in the field of clean energy.
This would include energy conservation, hydrogen, and ammonia technologies while making use of LNG, which is an energy source with a relatively low environmental impact.
He said the involvement of a Japanese company in Qatar’s inaugural large-scale solar power generation project exemplifies the two nations’ keen collaboration in clean energy initiatives. The significance of closer cooperation between Qatar and Japan in stabilising the global LNG market, which is currently facing challenges due to tight supply and demand, is also an area of common interest for the two sides.
Japan is hosting the LNG Producer-Consumer Conference 2023 in Tokyo concurrently with his visit to Qatar.
“Despite their geographical distance, Japan and Qatar have been able to deepen their ties in a favourable and stable way over the years, owing to the fact that the Indo-Pacific region, to which both countries belong, has defended and protected a free and open international order based on the rule of law, despite facing numerous challenges,” Kishida noted.
Relations beyond energy
Relations between Japan and Qatar extends beyond energy, Kishida said, describing it as a bond that has been further solidified by the Strategic Dialogue, established between the foreign ministers during Sheikh Tamim’s visit to Japan in January 2019.
“We also exchange our views on Middle Eastern Affairs including Gulf affairs, peace in the Middle East, and East Asian affairs such as China and North Korea,” Kishida said.
“I intend to closely work, on the international stage, with Qatar which plays a vital role in easing tensions and stabilising the situation in the international community.”