STABILITY and security of sea lanes in the region are crucial to Japan as it depends on the Middle East for more than 80 per cent of its energy needs, according to a top diplomat.
Underscoring these are Japanese vessels in the Gulf of Aden which are engaged in anti-piracy operations as part of the Combined Maritime Forces Task Force, said Japanese Ambassador Kiyoshi Asako.
However, Japan is “still hesitant” to join as a military partner in coalitions aiming to stabilise the Middle East politically.
Mr Asako was speaking to the GDN on the sidelines of a Rotary Club of Manama meeting at the Gulf Hotel yesterday.
As the guest speaker he spoke on “Japanese Economy and Japanese relations with the GCC”.
“The Middle East is an important part of the foundation of economic prosperity of Japan,” he said.
“It is a major provider of energy and the resources that power the Japanese economy.
“We get more than 80 per cent of our oil and 25pc of gas from this area.
“The sea lane running through the region is specially critical for the flow of goods to and from Japan.
“Peace and stability in this region are important to Japan, not just in the economic and social terms but it is also directly linked to our national security.
“This is one of the reasons we deploy ships in the Gulf of Aden which are taking part in the anti-piracy operations by the Combined Maritime Forces.
“We are also joining the international co-operation to maintain stability in this area on a political level though, of course, we’re still hesitant to join as a military partner.”
Unity is the asset of the GCC which should be restored at the earliest, stressed Mr Asako.
“There are few phenomena like Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen which are affecting the stability of the region.
“I think the solution should be found through negotiations and not war.
“Japan hopes the GCC unity crisis will be resolved soon, as we see the GCC as a unit including Qatar.
“Both sides (Qatar and Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC) are our friends.
“Gulf unity is the asset of the region and Japan hopes that there will be increased efforts to restore this unity soon.”
Japan is also discussing the possibility of signing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the GCC, said Mr Asako.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t reached a conclusion yet on this.
“Meanwhile, in Bahrain, we are discussing an investment protection agreement which is progressing at good speed.”
He also spoke on the size of the Japanese economy and work ethics in the Asian nation.