The Ministry of International Trade and Industry will set up an internal team to probe the finances of 122 oil exploration firms under the Japan National Oil Corp., MITI Vice Minister Osamu Watanabe said Thursday.

The special team, to be headed by Yasuhiro Inagawa, director general of the Natural Resources and Energy Agency, will work out a basic guideline for reconstructing the quasi-governmental firm by this fall, Watanabe said.

The guideline will set the platform for discussions to be held at the Petroleum Council, an advisory body to the minister of MITI that reviews the nation’s oil development policy. The council is slated to begin talks this fall. “We will make careful examinations of the financial states of each of the ongoing oil development projects,” Watanabe said. “At the same time, we will study and work out a basic idea as to what the nation’s oil exploration policy should be.”

The government is currently aiming to increase its self-developed oil supplies from today’s 670,000 barrels per day, 15 percent of the nation’s total oil demand, to 1.2 million bpd, or 25 percent of total demand, by early next century.

Pointing to the nation’s extremely fragile energy security, Watanabe maintained that independent exploration of oil resources remains very important.

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