Japan seeks to maintain strategic interest

Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi recently conducted a trip to the Middle East, affirming the country’s commitment to maintaining stability in a region featuring strategic ties with Tokyo.

Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi speaks at a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, September 16, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)
Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi speaks at a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, September 16, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)

In the context of Japan’s efforts to increase its oil and gas supply and build a green economy, the Middle East continues to play an important role in helping the world’s third largest economy ensure its energy security.

Motegi’s stops in the Middle East included Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Iran and Qatar. During the trip, the Japanese foreign minister reaffirmed Tokyo’s commitment to peace and prosperity in the Middle East.

For Iran, this was the first official visit by a Japanese minister to the Islamic country since former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit in 2019. Motegi met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to push for Tehran’s constructive efforts to revive the nuclear agreement, helping maintain regional peace.

Meanwhile, it was the first visit to Iraq by a Japanese foreign minister in 15 years. During his talks with the Iraqi President and Prime Minister, Motegi announced Tokyo’s intention to provide an additional loan of JPY32.7 billion (US$297 million) for the project to upgrade the 210,000bpd Basrah refinery in southern Iraq.

This plan is part of Japan’s revised energy policy, which focuses on promoting diplomacy with Middle Eastern countries and ensuring half of domestic energy demand is met by 2030. Japan’s strategy also aims to obtain supplies from the Middle East regarding green ammonia and hydrogen – important fuels in helping Japan implement its decarbonisation strategy in socio-economic development by 2050.

In separate meetings with his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts, Motegi called on the two sides to resume dialogue to reach a two-state solution. The Japanese foreign minister also shared the view of Iran, Turkey and Iraq on the need for cooperation to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a destabilising factor in the region.

Japan depends on the Middle East for the vast majority of its crude oil supplies. Therefore, the stability of this region is of great significance to Tokyo. Enhancing cooperation and investment in the Middle East not only helps Japan ensure its oil interests, but also allows the country maintain its influence in the region that holds a strategic geo-political position.