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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Tonami and Watters
independent administrative corporation, recently participated in a test of technology on the North
Slope of Alaska to extract natural gas from methane hydrates. This project was owned by an
American company, ConocoPhillips, and invested in by the US Department of Energy
Japan is not one of the coastal states of the Arctic Ocean, therefore, with the exception of rights
granted under the Spitsbergen Treaty, Japan does not have any territorial claim in terms of
international law. For that reason, Japan’s position is that the legal issues related to the Arctic Ocean
should be addressed within the existing legal framework, whose central framework is UNCLOS
(Horinouchi, 2010)
Japan has sought cooperation with Arctic states outside of international fora as well. A request for an
endorsement for Japan’s application for Permanent Observer status to the Arctic Council was made
several times in ministerial meetings, such as with Canada (May 2010) and Norway (September
2011). Norwegian and Finnish embassies in Tokyo held conferences to discuss the Arctic policies of
Norway and Finland with Japan
(Embassy of Finland in Tokyo, 2011)
. Scientific research is often
conducted in cooperation with Canada, Norway and Russia.
The particular characteristic of Japanese government administration, where business and industry
interests often play a critical role in the creation of policy, is also observed in Japan’s Arctic policy.
Long before the current rise in public interest in the Arctic, Japanese business concluded that
benefits from developing the NSR were too fragile to gain significant financial or logistics advantages
over existing routes. As a result, the Japanese government has not experienced sufficiently strong
pressure from the business community to prioritize Arctic issues or to create a unified, cross-
ministerial task force operating within a unified strategy. In the meantime, as the negative impacts of
climate change have become more apparent, policies related to the scientific research in the Arctic
were given priorities to protect and understand the Arctic environment.
However, the views of the shipping industry are shifting over time, and perhaps the Japanese
government’s attitude to energy security may shift as Japanese public attitudes to nuclear energy
undergo major change as a reaction to the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent nuclear