TOKYO (Reuters) -- Japan's government has asked Mitsui & Co. and Mitsubishi to "think positively" in joining the new Russian entity that will replace the Sakhalin-2 liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, industry minister Koichi Hagiuda said on Friday.
The minister met Mitsui President Kenichi Hori on Friday and made the request, and the ministry has also asked the same of Mitsubishi, Hagiuda said, adding that he plans to meet with a Mitsubishi executive in the near future.
"The public and private sectors will work together to protect the interests of Japanese companies and ensure a stable supply of LNG," Hagiuda told a news conference, reiterating that Sakhalin-2 is a key source of stable energy supply to Japan.
Japan imports about 10% of its LNG from Russia, mainly from Sakhalin-2.
Details of the conditions for Japanese trading houses to apply to join the new Russian entity were not clear, but the ministry was not aware of any request by Russia for additional investment or costs to join the new company, Hagiuda said.
Mitsui and Mitsubishi, which together hold 22.5% in Sakhalin-2, said separately on Friday they would cooperate with the Japanese government and their business partners "to decide on whether or not they would join the new entity."
A Russian government decree signed on Aug. 2 and published on Wednesday gave foreign investors at Sakhalin-2 -- Shell SHEL.L and the two Japanese trading houses -- a month to claim their stakes in the entity that will replace the project.
State gas company Gazprom GAZP.MM will receive just over 50% of the entity replacing Sakhalin Energy, the current operator. The new company will also hold the remaining 49.99% until existing Sakhalin-2 shareholders apply for a stake, with early September set as a deadline.