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Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered his ministers Tuesday to weigh the impact on the economy of surging oil prices sparked by escalating tensions in Libya, and voiced concern over the latest casualties in the strife-torn nation.

“Given the extremely significant impact (of the unrest in Libya) on our country, we need to properly address this concern by fully grasping the situation” and holding meetings as needed, Kan told an emergency gathering at his office.

During discussions to assess the impact and how Tokyo should respond, Kan said it is “troublesome” that the political turmoil in Libya has claimed a “considerable number of casualties.”

“We . . . urge the (Libyan) government to show restraint,” he said, adding that the safety of Japanese nationals in Libya and other areas in north Africa and the Middle East must also be ensured.

The meeting was held as crude oil prices surged in the morning on a Middle Eastern crude market in Tokyo, with the benchmark July delivery crude marking ¥55,000 per kiloliter, the highest since October 2008.

Emerging from the meeting, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda told reporters he had explained to Kan and his fellow ministers the current state of oil prices in the global market and Middle East nations’ oil exports to Japan.

Kaieda meanwhile hinted he has no immediate plan to work out measures to deal with the rise in oil prices.

“The first thing is to grasp the situation at hand,” he said, indicating a wait-and-see stance for now.

Prior to the meeting, Kaieda said the rising oil prices pose a major risk to the economy, which has recently been showing signs of life.

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