Japan's Middle Eastern Policy. How Tokyo manages to balance between U.S. demands and its energy security

Seminar Paper, 2020
23 Pages, Grade: AA



1 Introduction

2 Japan's energy recourses
2.1 Resource-poorcountry
2.2 Energy Diversification Strategy
2.3 ImportedEnergy

3 Japan's Bypass strategy
3.1 Alliance with the US
3.2 IranDilemma
3.2.1 Competition with China over resources and Washington's concerns
3.2.2 Abe's Middle Eastern Policy

4 Conclusion

5 Literaturverzeichnis

1 Introduction

The present research suggests that the Japanese government was capable of maintaining trade contacts with Tehran from the Islamic revolution onward—despite U.S. sanctions— partially due to Washington’s concerns over Chinese expansionism in the Middle East, and due to Tokyo's mediatory role.

Firstly, Japan's urgent need for energy, its diversification strategy for resources, as well as its main fuel suppliers, will be examined by using mainly statistical data. Secondly, the present paper will shed light on Tokyo's bypass strategy. Therefore, the ambiguous situation Tokyo found itself in, between its energy security on the one hand, and on the other hand, the U.S.—its most important ally—will be discussed. Iran constitutes the center of this issue. Hence, the chapter focuses majorly on it. Subchapters of the Iranian Dilemma section will debate China's expansionist activities, as well as Abe's Middle Eastern policy, in the light of uprising conflicts. Therefore, adopted recourses are news reports, interviews, speeches, statistical data, books based. Finally, a short conclusion will emphasize the importance of the Middle Eastern policy to Japan's energy security.

This research work applied to the Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition.

2 Japan's energy recourses

This chapter will discuss Japan's lack of any resources, as well as its diversification strategy for its energy supplies. It will also show how much-imported energy is crucial to its energy security. The method will approach the issue is heavily based on extracted statistical data from various online provided sources.

2.1 Resource-poor country

Today, energy plays a pivotal role in modern states that seek to feed their highly developed economies. Therefore, energy issues are at the forefront of the global economy. Many conflicts in our world today, more or less, are related to recourses such as crude oil. In the case of Japan, history has shown that energy has always been a source of problems for Japanese policymakers. It was also no surprise to see Japan entering WWII to secure its energy supply. A closer look at Japan's economic situation on an international level today, reveals that it is the third-largest economy, the fourth-largest energy consumer, the third oil­consumer and importer. Furthermore, Japan is the second-largest coal importer, as well as the word-largest liquid natural gas (LNG) importer. In short, Japan is hungry for energy. Moreover, it relies to a large extent on foreign recourses. This dependency has shaped Japan's both domestic and foreign policy. The oil crisis in 1973-74, followed by the expansion of nuclear power, drastically increased Japan's dependency on Middle Eastern oil that today accounts for 90 percent of its imports.

Before the catastrophically incident ofFukushima, there were 54 nuclear reactors in Japan. With 45 GW ofinstalled capacity, Japan ranked as the world's third-largest nuclear power producer—after the United States and France. At the same, Japan became the world's third-largest nuclear power consumer. In the year 2010, these reactors covered 30 percent of the country's electricity demands.1 The Japanese government and TEPCO2 —Tokyo Electricity Power Company— intended to build 14 new reactors by 2030. It would have doubled the share of nuclear-generated electricity from 34 percent to 70 percent. However, these highly ambitious plans were to fail. According to TEPCO and members of the political establishment, if Japan wants to maintain its economic success for a long time, it has therefore to develop its civil nuclear program. This strategy aimed to decrease the country's dependence on crude oil, furthermore, it would make it an energy self-supporter.

After Fukushima's so-called triple disaster—the nuclear disaster was created by a massive earthquake, that in turn, started a high tsunami—the world witnessed the worst nuclear tragedy since the meltdown of Chernobyl. In the light of this incident, the IAEA confirmed in one of its reports, the unpreparedness of the nuclear facility to withstand a tsunami of this type.3 4 The following citation— provided by TEPCO in its 2011 annual report of the same month the catastrophe occurred— gives a glimpse into the actual situation :

At 2:46PM on March ll,2011,a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred with the epicenter in the east of the Sanriku coast in the Tohoku region. All the operating units of our Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station were automatically “shutdown” immediately after the earthquake occurred. However, the whole nuclear power station lost all of the power supply due to the earthquake and its following approximately +13-meter tsunami. Consequent inundation was approximately O.P. +11.5-15.5 meters high. [...] Atthis point, we found radiation "Containment" function had been lost as well. In order to establish continuous cooling systems with stable power supply and restrain emissions of radioactive material, we resumed external power supply soon after the earthquake and have worked for water spraying with temporary pumps and special-purpose trucks, for introduction of circulatory watercooling systems and other necessary steps. Moreover, we will take further effective measures to counter possible aftershocks and tsunamis as soon as possible. 4

As a result of this occurrence, the Japanese society reacted with sheer anger and disappointment towards its leaders and people in charge. It was, by all means, a turning point in Japan's energy security—in May 2012, Japan had no more operating nuclear power plants. From now on, it was clear for both politicians as well as companies that the country is doomed to face higher energy issues. That meant, electricity prices would skyrocket and eventually affect the industry and private consumer. Furthermore, electricity shortages, especially during the summer, are to be expected, and eventually imports of fuel from politically unstable regions—such as the Middle East—would rapidly increase.5

The Fukushima catastrophe forced both Japanese policymakers and energy companies to endeavor for alternative energy supplies. As will be shown in what follows, the country will put all its efforts to diversify its energy recourses. However, crude oil—given its economic importance for global powers—will largely dictate Japan's energy security. As this chapter has demonstrated, Japan lacks any possible resources that could maintain feeding its highly developed economy. After the abandonment ofits civil nuclear program, the country had both to diversify its energy resources or come up with an alternative. So far, Japan is rather eager for diversification.

2.2 Energy Diversification Strategy

Many claims that Japan will shortly be able to free itself from any fossil fuels. However, statistics and numbers do not support this claim. After the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, Japan did not shut down all its civil nuclear facilities forever but only for a specific time. As will be shown here, Tokyo's main ambitions regarding its energy recourses were first to diversify these. In other words, it sought to distribute its energy supply equally—as best as possible— according to the different imported fuels, such as crude oil, natural gas, etc. To support this argument, the here presented line graph—showing the total primary energy supply from 1990 until 2018—is going to be analyzed. All the figures for the line graph have been abstracted from the IAE6 webpage.

The previous chapter constituted that Japan did not have any operating nuclear power plants after May 2012. Yet, today a glimpse of a recent statistic reveals that Japan—again— generates nuclear-based energy. Also, it is not to the same extent as it was before 2Oll.In fact, according to the line graph, nuclear supplied energy significantly decreased, accounting for 75 101.0 ktoe in 2010 to be only 4153.0 ktoe in 2012. It kept this trend for five years, and in2015 the ktoe number steadily increased and reached in2018 a figure ofl6 918.0 ktoe.7 Still relatively little in comparison to the numbers before Fukushima—but yet—this upward trend of nuclear energy is worth mentioning.

Still looking at the line graph, one would notice that renewable energy in Japan—that is to say solar, wind, etc.— plays a minor role in comparison to other energy factors like oil or natural gas. What is also striking about renewable energy is that there has been rapid growth, starting from 2Oll.Asan interpretation for it can be the initiation realized in the light of the Fukushima incident. Although oil over the last ten years constituted a downward trend, the discrepancy between its figure and that of renewable energy in 2018 is immensely high—Oil accounted for 167 335.0 ktoe, whereas solar, wind, etc., amounted only 8927.0 ktoe.8 Hence, if Japan ever desires to rely only on energy recourses neither harming people nor nature, it will have to invest to a large extent in renewable energy. The current situation, however, shows that fossil fuels will amount to the highest numbers for the next few years. Thus, one can argue, for the upcoming years, Tokyo will be more occupied by implementing its energy diversification policy, rather than focusing on renewable energy. Yet, this should not imply that Japan will never gain its independence from fossil fuels— it is only a matter of time for this to happen.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

TPES JAPAN 1990-2018 I9

2.3 Imported Energy

Today, Japan imports most ofits resources from regions dominated by political turmoil, that on the other side, makes the country vulnerable concerning its energy security. The chapter, hence, debates the situation of Japan's energy imports. Therefore, it will analyze data mainly from the homepage of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as well as other statistical institutions. To support the argument, the gained data is to be examined in-depth.

As already constituted, Japan suffers under resource scarcity. Because of that, the country relies on imported energy and raw materials. Energy imports were accelerated, especially after the complete shutdown of the nuclear reactors in2011. On the other hand, made Japan's economy even more dependent on foreign fossil fuels. However, in 2015 a turning point occurred under Abe's government. After almost five years had passed, Japan successfully restarted a nuclear reactor in Kagoshima. Subsequently, many other reactors around the country have been ever since operating. Abe's reintroducing nuclear-powered energy to Japan faced harsh critic from local opposition. As a result, several nuclear projects have been delayed or completely stopped. Against all the odds, the government of Abe is keen to reinforce new nuclear power plants that meet new safety standards, so as not to experience another Fukushima incident. By doing so, the government of Japan desires to solve its resource scarcity problem by providing nuclear-based energy and avoid fuel imports. Furthermore, Abe's energy program, which emphasizes a full liberalization of Japan's energy market, aims to reform the electricity and gas sector.10 This can be understood as part of the energy diversification strategy that has been already debated. Yet, as of today, Japan mostly needs imported energy. A glimpse of recent statistics representing Japan's annual imports is very telling in this respect.

The following table below depicts the most four imported goods in the year 2018 into Japan. Each product group is according to its dollar value, as well as its percentage share in terms of overall imports.

Top four imports in the year 2018 presented in the highest dollar value

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

As can be seen in the table, in the year 2018, Japanese importer spent the most on fossil fuels, that is to say, crude oil, natural gas, coal, etc. The next category that follows in the ranking—Electrical machinery— with a share of 13.5% is almost about as half as Mineral fuels. It indicates the huge importance ofimported energy. That means, crude oil, natural gas, and the like, dictates Tokyo's import policy.

Having mentioned the most precious foreign good to Japan's industry and its energy supply, now the light will be shed on its import partners. For that, and given the main issue of this paper, the focus here majorly lies in Middle Eastern countries. Most two crucial commodities—crude oil and liquid natural gas—happened to come to a large extent from Middle Eastern countries. The bar chart below depicts the import volume of crude oil by countries. The first ten import partners are ranking according to the amount of fossil fuel imports in the year 2018—the measurements are given in million kiloliters. In total, in the same year, Japan imported crude oil from 24 different countries. Their figures, however, are of small importance, and therefore, they will not be further discussed in the present paper. With about 70 million kiloliters in the fiscal year 2018, Saudi Arabia constitutes the most imported crude oil in Japan. The UAE accounts for almost 45 and is, therefore, the second most important exporter to the country. The two following countries in the diagram—Qatar, and Kuwait—have figures that are three times less than that of the United Arab Emirates. Among the listed ten states, two of them are non-Middle Eastern—Russia and the U.S.— and the rest, apart from Iran, are Arabic. With a relatively low value of roughly 7 million kiloliters, Iran ranks sixth of countries selling crude oil to Japan in the year 2018. Although Iran shows a low number in comparison to other exporters, nonetheless, the situation with the Islamic Republic oflran is a source of trouble. More about this issue, a separate chapter will delve more into it. Overall, in the fiscal year 2018, Japan imported approximately 68 million kiloliters of crude oil from the Middle East region, and the largest importer was Saudi Arabia.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten



1 Espen Moe, Paul Midford. The Political Economy of Renewable Energy and Energy 5ecwnty_(Hampshire: Palgrave MacmillanUK, 2014), 46-47.

2 TEPCO, established in 1951 to supply metropolitan Tokyo area with electric power. TEPCO Tokyo Electric Power Holdings 2011.

3 Moe and Midford, The Political Economy ofRenewable Energy and Energy Security, 47-52.

4 TEPCO Tokyo Electric Power Holdings 2011.

5 Moe and Midford, The Political Economy ofRenewable Energy and Energy Security, 54.

6 The IEA, created in 1974 providing states with data, statistics, energy policy analysis and policy recommendations. IEA 2019.

7 IEA 2019

8 IEA 2019.

9 IEA 2019.

10 Central Inteligence Agency n.d.

11 Statista2019.

Excerpt out of 23 pages


Japan's Middle Eastern Policy. How Tokyo manages to balance between U.S. demands and its energy security
Bosporus University  (Asian Studies)
History of Japan’s International Relations and Foreign Policy
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
japan, middle, eastern, policy, tokyo
Quote paper
Ali Samaha (Author), 2020, Japan's Middle Eastern Policy. How Tokyo manages to balance between U.S. demands and its energy security, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/515624


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