Japan and the United Arab Emirates signed on Thursday a nuclear cooperation agreement during a visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who stressed Tokyo’s cooperation with its Middle East partners.
Abe is on a regional tour he began in Saudi Arabia, in a push to sell Japanese nuclear technologies.
The cooperation agreement over a peaceful use of nuclear energy was signed in Dubai, in the presence of Abe and UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashif al-Maktoum, WAM state news agency said.
The UAE also agreed to extend an oil concession agreement with Japan’s Abu Dhabi Oil Co. adding a new zone, WAM said.
Making his second visit to the Gulf country as prime minister, Abe arrived late on Wednesday in the UAE, Japan’s eighth largest world economic partner, to take part in a Japan-UAE Business Forum.
Abe announced at the forum that Japan would sign a nuclear agreement with the United Arab Emirates.
“Japan can contribute to UAE energy supplies by means of nuclear energy conservation and renewable energy,” he said according to translation from Japanese.
The UAE announced in mid-July that it would begin building two of four nuclear power plants — each with a capacity of 1,400 megawatts — in partnership with a South Korean consortium, as part of plans to produce electricity from 2017.
Despite being a major oil exporter, the UAE has opted to develop nuclear power, seeing it as a proven, environmentally promising and commercially competitive source of electricity.
With four plants scheduled to be operational by 2020, the UAE hopes that nuclear energy would provide up to a quarter of its electricity needs, which are forecast to soar to 40 gigawatts from 15.5 currently.
Japanese foreign ministry spokesman Yutaka Yokol told reporters that Tokyo will “provide a small part of the technology for the facility,” which is being built by a South Korean consortium.
A Japanese-French consortium has won a $22 billion contract to build a nuclear power plant on Turkey’s Black Sea coast, a senior energy ministry official said on Thursday.
For his part, UAE Energy Minister Suhail al-Mazrouei, called for stable world oil prices at the forum.
“We seek as an energy-producing country stability in world prices, to enable exporting and consuming countries to steadily develop and build their economies,” he said.
Nearly a third of the UAE production of crude oil and petrol derivatives go to Japan while the oil-rich country’s liquefied natural gas production has been used to generate electricity in Tokyo since 1977, according to Mazrouei.
The UAE exports 0.8 million barrels of oil to Japan per day and 5.5 million tonnes of natural gas.
“Japan can make a new contribution to provide new energy to the UAE including saving energy, renewable energy or atomic energy,” said Yokol.
Abe said Japan aims “to closely cooperate and coordinate with countries in the region,” adding that “stability and prosperity of the Middle East is directly connected to the prosperity of international society and Japan.”
Elsewhere the Japanese foreign ministry spokesman told reporters that oil exports from Iran, which is hit by international sanctions over its nuclear programme, are becoming “dramatically smaller.”
Japan is among 20 countries exempted from tough US sanctions imposed on nations buying oil from Iran.