Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani  Fumio Kishida japan
This handout picture released by the Qatar News Agency (QNA) shows Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (R) receiving Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Doha on July 18, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Doha: Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Qatar on Tuesday to wrap up a Gulf tour centred on energy security and cooperation with Tokyo’s main suppliers.

He was making the first visit to Doha by a Japanese premier in 10 years.

Kishida arrived in Qatar from the UAE after starting his tour in Saudi Arabia where he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

During his tour, Kishida and Gulf leaders discussed “how to deal with energy challenges” in the face of unstable supply due to Russia’s Ukraine invasion, the prime minister told a Doha press conference.

Japan relies almost entirely on imports for its crude oil, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar accounting for the bulk of its supplies.

But as the Gulf states move towards cleaner energy sources, Japan said it is hoping to offer its greener and renewable energy technologies to assist their decarbonisation efforts.

“By combining respective strengths of Gulf states and Japan, oil producers in the Middle East will be transformed to global green energy hubs, exporting decarbonised energy and critical minerals,” Kishida told reporters.

“Cooperation will be enhanced in respect to the production of hydrogen, ammonium,” and decarbonisation technology, said the prime minister, the first from Japan to make a Gulf tour since Shinzo Abe in 2020.

‘Energy security’

Earlier on Tuesday, 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.

The Doha visit comes with Japanese companies 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 attack, Japan has faced “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 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.