Abu Dhabi:

Japan has sought extending its existing oil and gas concessions from the UAE, which is its second largest oil import source after Saudi Arabia. .

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his official meeting on Wednesday evening with General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Deputy Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, requested to provide oil supplies to Japan in a stable manner, Japanese officials said at a press conference in Abu Dhabi yesterday.

Abe has sought extending the existing oil and gas concession, most of which expire by 2018, said Yutaka Yokoi, press secretary at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said.

The UAE is the second largest exporter of oil to Japan, after Saudi Arabia, which offers 30 per cent of Japan’s crude oil exports. The UAE provides 23 per cent of Japan’s total crude oil imports, with 829,000 barrels per day.

The UAE is also the sixth largest natural gas exporter to Japan with 5.5 million tons and provides 40 per cent of Japan’s self development crude oil, according to the figures given by the Japanese officials yesterday.

Japan seeks more oil as it has cut short oil imports from Iran and shut down most of the nuclear power plants after Fukushima disaster. Japan has reduced imports from Iran by 40 per cent during the past five years, the spokesman said.

Yokoi said more than 80 per cent of Japan’s oil imports are from the Middle East. “That’s why we believe the peace and security in the region is our priority as well,” he said.

Japanese Oil Development Co. owns 12 per cent of the Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company (Adma-OpcoO) oil and gas concession which expires in 2018. Japanese companies are also expected to bid for a stake in another concession which comes up for renewal at the end of 2013.

While addressing the Japanese-UAE Business Forum in Abu Dhabi yesterday morning , the Japanese Prime Minister highlighted the special relationship with the UAE.

Abe said Japan wanted to extend the relations beyond trade. As part of enhancing people to people relations, he said Japan would host 500 students for higher studies in Japan in the next five years. He said Japanese food can also promoted in the UAE. “I understand there are 30 Japanese restaurants in the UAE.”

Twelve Memoranda of Understanding between various UAE and Japan institutions were also signed during Abe’s two-day visit, which was concluded yesterday. He left for Turkey from Abu Dhabi yesterday evening. His four-nation tour included Russia and Saudi Arabia also.

Japan- UAE trade stands at $52.94 billion in 2012. Japanese direct investment in the UAE shot up from $19 million in 2005 to 364 million in 2012, according to the figures given by Japanese officials yesterday.

The UAE is hosting the largest number of Japanese companies in the Middle East and North Africa region with 271, followed by 93 in Turkey.

— With inputs from Reuters