Saudi-Japan cooperation ‘could help solve world’s energy problems’

Nobuo Tanaka, president of Sasakawa Peace Foundation. (Illustration by Luis Grañena)
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Updated 12 January 2020

Saudi-Japan cooperation ‘could help solve world’s energy problems’

  • Nobuo Tanaka, chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation speaks to Arab News about Saudi-Japan relations
  • Tanaka says Japan could be a mediator between GCC states and Iran, as well as the US

DUBAI: Cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Japan in energy could help solve some of the most intractable problems the world faces today, according to one of Japan’s leading business thinkers.

Nobuo Tanaka, chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and former director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), told Arab News that the two countries could help stabilize global energy markets, and also defuse the controversy over nuclear proliferation – two of the big issues facing the region and the world today.

“The demand and supply balance is a crucial issue for Japan, and Saudi Arabia supplies lots of our oil,” he said. “The world is well supplied, but there are geopolitical risks to delivery. There has been no reduction in Saudi Arabia’s ability to supply us, so there is no credibility issue there.”

Japan is the fourth-biggest importer of oil in the world, and the Kingdom is its main supplier, shipping around 40 percent of its total requirement.

Tanaka, who also served as head of trade at the Japanese economics ministry, was speaking ahead of the trip by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Saudi Arabia.

He added that Abe could be a mediator in the tense relationship between GCC states and Iran, as well as the US. “Abe has good levels of trust with American President Donald Trump, as well as with Saudi Arabia and Iran. He can encourage dialogue between the players, and that may lead the way for a better relationship in the region.”

One area where Japan can bring expertise to bear is in nuclear power.

The country has been looking at ways of developing safe nuclear power generation since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that affected the Fukushima plant, causing deaths and economic damage.

Japan is considering employing new nuclear technology – the “integral fast reactor” developed in the US ­– as a safer option and a viable alternative to fossil fuels, Tanaka said.

Saudi Arabia was also planning to develop nuclear power generation capacity. “Japan, Saudi Arabia and others want peaceful nuclear technology to develop proliferation-free designs.”

He pointed out that the new technology could also offer a solution for Iran and North Korea – two of the current geopolitical trouble spots which are at odds with the rest of the world over their nuclear ambitions.

“Japan can help in this because we are a peaceful nuclear nation,” he added. “This is visionary. I think it is the only way to solve the nuclear issue in northeast Asia and the Middle East.

“Japan has been talking to the US about it for some time. The next step is to get it adopted by countries that want to use nuclear power, but not for military purposes.”

He said that the geopolitical situation in the Middle East was a cause for concern but saw some recent grounds for optimism.

“The retaliation by Iran has happened, but it seems to have been controlled. I hope it’s the end of the threat of direct military conflict, but certainly the risk remains of possible attacks.”

Amid speculation that Saudi Aramco might follow its record-breaking initial public offering (IPO) on Riyadh’s Tadawul stock exchange with a listing on an overseas market, Tanaka said the Japanese stock market would be a good place for such an IPO to take place.

“We would welcome Aramco in Tokyo. The Saudi-Japan strategic relationship is very important, and a Tokyo listing would take it to another level.”

Tanaka noted that there were important areas where Aramco and Japanese energy could cooperate, including in the use of hydrogen as a “clean” fuel that avoided the environmental problems associated with fossil fuels.


Arab News recording exposes Nissan lawyer’s lie on IMF bailout for Lebanon

Updated 01 June 2020

Arab News recording exposes Nissan lawyer’s lie on IMF bailout for Lebanon

LONDON: Arab News has published the recording of an interview with a Nissan lawyer after he denied saying that a bailout of Lebanon by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was linked to the extradition of fugitive tycoon Carlos Ghosn.

The former Nissan chairman fled to Beirut in December from Japan, where he faced charges of financial wrongdoing.

In a story published in Arab News Japan on Saturday, Sakher El Hachem, Nissan’s legal representative in Lebanon, said the multibillion-dollar IMF bailout was contingent on Ghosn being handed back to Japan. 

The lawyer said IMF support for Lebanon required Japan’s agreement. Lebanese officials had told him: “Japan will assist Lebanon if Ghosn gets extradited,” the lawyer said

“For Japan to agree on that they want the Lebanese authorities to extradite Ghosn, otherwise they won’t provide Lebanon with financial assistance. Japan is one of the IMF’s major contributors … if Japan vetoes Lebanon then the IMF won’t give Lebanon money, except after deporting Ghosn.”

On Sunday, El Hachem denied making the comments. “The only thing I told the newspaper was that there should have been a court hearing on April 30 in Lebanon, but it was postponed because of the pandemic,” he said. In response, Arab News published the recording of the interview, in which he can be clearly heard making the statements attributed to him. 

Japan issued an arrest warrant after Ghosn, 66, escaped house arrest and fled the country.

Now listen to the recording: