By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
TOKYO/WASHINGTON (Worthy News) – Cracks have emerged in ties between Western allies, with Japan refusing to rally behind a $60-a-barrel cap on purchases of Russian crude oil.
Japan got the U.S. to agree to the exception, saying it needed it to ensure access to Russian energy.
However, the move was likely to raise questions in Europe, where millions suffer from high energy prices as governments weaned their nations off Russia’s oil due to its invasion of Ukraine.
Yet Japan stepped up its purchase of Russian natural gas, and Tokyo fears that agreeing on the price cap imposed by the West could impact oil supplies.
Tokyo says it needs Russian energy as Japan has almost none of its fossil fuel.
Some analysts believe this dependency heavily influenced Japan’s hesitancy to fully back Ukraine against Russia.
To date, Japan is the only Group of Seven (G7) group member not to have supplied Ukraine with lethal weapons. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was also the last G7 leader to visit Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
HUNGARY ALSO RELUCTANT
Yet in the European Union, Hungary is also among the most vocal countries opposing delivering military aid to neighboring Ukraine, saying it could lead to a world war.
Yet Kishida said the G7 summit he is hosting this May in his hometown of Hiroshima would demonstrate Japan’s solidarity with Ukraine.
“We absolutely will not allow Russia’s outrageous act, and we are imposing strict sanctions on Russia to stop Russia’s invasion as soon as possible,” said chief government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno.
However, critics say that by purchasing Russian energy for high prices, Japan helps to finance Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Russia accounts for nearly one-tenth of Japan’s natural-gas imports, most of it through Sakhalin-2, an oil and gas development project on Sakhalin Island north of Japan.
The quantity bought by Japan last year was, however, 4.6 percent greater than in the previous year.
“It’s not as if Japan can’t manage without this. They can. They simply don’t want to,” complained James Brown, a professor at Temple University’s Japan campus, in published remarks.
Brown, who studies Russia-Japan relations, said Japan should move to withdraw from the Sakhalin projects eventually “if they’re really serious about supporting Ukraine.”
Japan’s energy policies contrast with Germany, Europe’s largest economy, which relied on Russia for 55 percent of its natural-gas imports before the war.
Germany had to survive a complete cutoff by quickly remodeling its import infrastructure.
Experts say that despite energy issues, Germany’s economy grew last year faster than Japan’s, despite forecasts of a German recession triggered by the Russian cutoff.
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