Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has caused a global energy crisis and he pressed Justin Trudeau on Thursday to supply reliable liquefied natural gas to Tokyo to replace Russian oil and gas.
Mr. Trudeau and his Japanese counterpart, who met for three hours of talks in Ottawa, also agreed that China’s growing economic and military belligerence is one of the “central challenges” in the Indo-Pacific region.
Mr. Kishida told reporters that the two countries would vigorously object to any efforts by Beijing to shift the balance of power in Asian waterways through which significant amounts of global trade pass.
“We agreed that we would strongly oppose unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in the East China Sea and the South China Sea,” he said.
Japan’s PM Kishida and Trudeau to discuss threats from Russia and China
China has been building artificial islands and military facilities in disputed parts of the South China Sea and using naval and coast-guard patrols to assert its territorial ambitions. Additionally, Beijing has been using its economic and diplomatic power to put pressure on other countries to recognize these claims.
But much of the discussions focused on Canadian energy, rare earth minerals and bilateral trade. Mr. Kishida made the case for Japan’s wish to acquire more Canadian natural gas and critical ores for electric vehicles and other high-tech manufacturing products as Japan transitions to green energy.
“We’re facing an energy crisis and countries around the word are trying to strike a balance between ensuring a stable supply of energy, as well as the other side, the decarbonization. In that sense, I am confident that Canada will play a major role as a resource-rich country,” Mr. Kishida said at the start of the meeting.
At a later news conference, Mr. Trudeau said the two leaders “talked a lot about how Canada can be a reliable supplier, not just of energy, but of critical minerals including resources that the world is going to need as we move toward a net-zero economy around the world.”
Mr. Trudeau lauded Japan’s Mitsubishi conglomerate as a major investor in the Shell PLC-led LNG Canada export terminal in Kitimat, B.C., slated to be completed in 2025. But the Prime Minister did not make a commitment to ease regulatory approval for phase two of the multibillion-dollar project.
In an interview with Tausi Insider, Noriyuki Shikata, Japan’s cabinet secretary for public affairs, said the Kitimat facility will replace the 9 per cent of natural gas that his country currently imports from Russia.
“That would be great news for Japan,” he said. “This is also part of our effort to diversify imports from the Middle East. We have been importing 90 per cent of our oil from the Gulf countries.”
He said Japanese investors are open to putting money into critical-mineral projects provided they can be “commercially viable.”
Mr. Shikata said Japan is also keen to invest in Canadian green hydrogen and ammonia projects and to possibly buy Ontario’s GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 small modular nuclear reactors, a new model that is not yet used anywhere else in the world.
“We are interested in co-operating with Canada in this area,” he said.
Canada and Japan also announced a Japanese trade mission will visit this spring “seeking new partners and investment opportunities in Canada related to zero-emission vehicles and batteries.” The federal government also said it plans a trade mission to Japan in October.
Japan’s new defence strategy unveiled recently said “North Korea’s military activities pose an even more grave and imminent threat to Japan’s national security than ever before.” A readout of Thursday’s meeting from the Canadian Prime Minister’s Office said the two leaders “talked about their deep concern with the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic-missile programs and reiterated their support for a complete, verified and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons.”
Mr. Kishida is on a whirlwind tour of most Group of Seven countries, visiting Paris, Rome, London and Ottawa, before heading to Washington, the final stop, on Friday. Mr. Kishida will play host to the annual summit of the G7 industrial powers in May in Hiroshima.
He is looking for military co-operation agreements to contain Chinese expansion in the Indo-Pacific region and to send a message to Russia that the Western democracies stand united against threats to the international order.
In London on Wednesday, the Prime Minister and his British counterpart agreed to bilateral military exchanges and joint drills. Japan is looking for a similar agreement with Canada.
“From our point of view, it would serve as deterrence, especially for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Mr. Shikata said.
In December, Tokyo unveiled the biggest military expansion since the Second World War, vowing to spend US$350-billion, including on long-range missiles that could hit mainland China. Mr. Kishida has said that Japan should respond to Beijing’s growing threat in the Indo-Pacific region with “comprehensive national power and in co-operation with like-minded countries and others.”
In Washington, Mr. Kishida and President Joe Biden are expected to discuss joint security issues as well as the global economy in summit talks, including control of semi-conductor exports to their strategic rival China.