Japan PM confirms oil reserve release in response to U.S. request

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Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to media in Tokyo

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Wednesday his government would release oil reserves in response to a U.S. request in a way that does not breach a Japanese law that only allows stock releases if there is a risk of supply disruption.

“We have been working with the United States to stabilise the international oil market and we have decided to join the United States in selling part of our national oil reserves in a way that does not contravene existing (Japanese) oil reserve law,” Kishida told reporters.

Japan will release “a few hundred thousand kilolitres” of oil from its national reserve, but the timing of the sale has not been decided, industry minister Koichi Hagiuda told reporters on Wednesday.

Industry ministry officials said details were still being worked out. One kilolitre is about 6.3 barrels of oil. Earlier the Nikkei newspaper reported that Japan will auction by the end of the year about 4.2 million barrels of oil, which is around 666,666 kilolitres, about one or two days’ worth of its demand.

The overall national stockpile is about 490 million barrels.

Kishida said Japan would continue to lobby oil-producing countries to combat drastic price moves.

Kishida’s confirmation came after the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday it will release millions of barrels of oil from strategic reserves in coordination with China, India, South Korea, Japan and Britain, to try to cool rising crude prices after major global producers repeatedly ignored calls for more supply.

Under the coordinated plan, the United States will release 50 million barrels, the equivalent of about two and a half days of U.S. demand. India, meanwhile, said it would release 5 million barrels, while Britain said it would allow the voluntary release of 1.5 million barrels of oil from privately held reserves.

Details on the amount and timing of the release of oil from South Korea and China were not announced. Seoul said it would decide after discussions with the United States and other allies.

(Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick and Chang-Ran Kim; Writing by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Chris Reese, Kenneth Maxwell and Kim Coghill)

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