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Japan unable to stop importing Russian oil immediately – minister

TOKYO. May 5 (Interfax) – Japan is not immediately able to stop importing Russian oil and align itself with EU plans to impose an embargo on Russian oil.

"Japan has limited resources and it is difficult for us to immediately align ourselves" with the EU, the Kyodo news agency reported Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda as telling reporters in Washington after meeting with senior U.S. officials.

"It is necessary for countries to do what they can do to keep pace," Hagiuda said, adding his government wants to "share the same direction" after U.S. President Joe Biden expressed his intention to hold talks among the Group of Seven nations by the end of this week on imposing more sanctions against Russia, Kyodo reports.

The agency quoted Hagiuda as saying that to reduce dependence on Russia in the energy field, Japan had asked the United States to increase liquefied natural gas output. He said Japan was considering providing loans to Japanese firms which take part in the U.S. LNG projects.

Kyodo said Hagiuda also met with U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Wednesday, and that the two shared "the importance of maintaining energy security" amid the situation in Ukraine. Also, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Japan’s national security adviser Takeo Akiba in Washington on Tuesday. The two discussed cooperation on sanctions against Russia due to the special operation in Ukraine.

The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) says that Russia accounted for 3.6% of Japanese oil and 8.8% of the country’s LNG imports in 2021.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday that the EC considered it necessary as part of its sixth sanctions package against Russia to ban imports of all Russian oil by the EU. Bloomberg quoted EU officials as saying the EU was also thinking of banning European companies from providing services to Russia for the transportation of its oil to third countries and from insuring shipments.