19 March 2005
No intention to end energy projects in Iran: Japan
By Siddharth Varadarajan
NEW DELHI, MARCH 18. Despite the United States' well-known concern about third countries investing in the oil and gas sector of Iran, Japan has no intention of ending its energy projects with the Islamic Republic.
In an interview with The Hindu here on Thursday, the Japanese Prime Minister's Foreign Policy Adviser, Yoriko Kawaguchi, said that while she could not comment on Washington's desire that India abandon its Iran pipeline project, securing energy supplies was as important to Japan as its concerns about the Iranian nuclear programme.
Iran is today Japan's third-largest supplier of oil after Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Although Tokyo had backed off from making major investment in Iranian energy projects for most of the past decade because of the U.S. policy of sanctioning firms which get involved in Iran, Japanese companies are poised to clinch a mammoth deal involving the development of the multi-billion dollar Azadegan oil field.
"We share the U.S. concerns over Iran, over the questions that the International Atomic Energy Agency has raised", said Ms. Kawaguchi, who was Japan's Foreign Minister until last year when Prime Minister
Koizumi named her as his diplomatic adviser. "We have been telling the Iranian authorities that they should abide by the IAEA resolutions, answer the questions the agency has raised and ratify the Additional Protocol". "At the same time, Japan has no energy source of its own", she added. "We are dependent on foreign oil and our needs are to diversify and secure our supply. So that is another political policy we have and we are taking measures (such as looking to develop Azadegan) to protect our supply". In doing so, she said, "We are transparent and responsible".
Asked about Japan's attitude towards the U.N. High Level Panel report on the reform of the world body and its Security Council, Ms. Kawaguchi said Tokyo was for `Model A,' i.e. the induction of a few additional permanent members, rather than the broader expansion involving semi-permanent members envisaged by `Model B.' Japan has already begun the process of convincing U.N. members that `Model A' is the way to go forward, she said, adding that she expected other candidates for permanent membership were doing likewise.
On the question of veto power, she said: "When we become permanent members of the UNSC, we should have the same rights as the other permanent members. This is our position in principle. But there is the High Level Panel's recommendation on not extending the veto power and due weight also can be given to that report."
Ms. Kawaguchi defended Japan's participation in both the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and Theatre Missile Defence. She described missile defence as "a purely defensive measure" which would not spark off a missile race in the region. In a reference to India's own controversial decision to back U.S. missile defence plans, she said: "The security environment has changed since 9/11 and both Japan and India share the same views with respect to security today."
Asked why an initiative such as the PSI — about which many countries in Asia, like China, have grave reservations — has been launched unilaterally rather than under the aegis of the U.N., Ms. Kawaguchi said there was an urgent need to stop terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. "Working within the framework of international law, we should work to stop them, and many countries should get on board, including India".
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