Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will likely make a mid-July visit to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to seek cooperation for stable oil supplies amid Russia's ongoing war against Ukraine, according to diplomatic sources.
It would be the first tour to the Middle East by a serving Japanese leader since Shinzo Abe visited in 2020, and would come as China is increasing its engagement in the region by brokering a deal to normalize ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran in March.
According to the sources, arrangements are currently being made for the visit, with Kishida departing Japan around July 16.
He is expected to meet Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
Japan relies almost entirely on imports for its crude oil, with procurements from the three Middle Eastern countries representing more than 80 percent of its supplies.
As the prolonged Russian invasion of Ukraine has resulted in uncertainties regarding energy supplies, Kishida intends to urge the countries to help stabilize the oil market through increased production.
Topics likely to be discussed also include cooperation for the Middle East nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions through electricity generation utilizing hydrogen and ammonia, a technology Japan is promoting.
Plans had been in the works for Kishida to visit the three countries in August last year, but they were canceled after he contracted the novel coronavirus.