• The Associated Press

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Tokyo is in talks with the International Energy Agency on measures to help ease the disruption of petroleum supply in the U.S. Gulf Coast area, including the possible release of some of Japan’s strategic oil reserves, a trade ministry official said Friday.

“We’ve received a call from the IEA and started talks with them on measures for the oil supply disruption in the U.S.,” the senior official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.

The IEA began consultations Wednesday with its members on the release of some of their oil product inventories after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast and shut down about 90 percent of crude production capacity.

The region is responsible for around 30 percent of U.S. crude production and a quarter of its gas.

“We are discussing a broad range of countermeasures that Japan and other IEA members could take,” the METI official said in a briefing. “Releasing our oil reserves is one possibility.”

A separate METI official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said it still has not been determined whether Japan would release the oil directly to the United States or put it on the open market as a way of depressing prices.

In Asia, Japan and South Korea are members of the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based oil market watchdog under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which recommends that its members hold oil reserves equal to at least 90 days of net imports or domestic requirements.

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