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Japanese trade surplus with US down 26% for January

Shale gas helped push up imports by nearly 12%

An LNG vessel in Futtsu, Chiba Prefecture. LNG imports from the U.S. helped reduce the trade imbalance between the country and Japan.

TOKYO -- Japan's trade surplus with the U.S. declined 26.6% on the year last month amid concern over potential friction between the two partners.

Imports from the U.S. rose 11.9% to 654.66 billion yen ($5.78 billion) in preliminary January statistics released Monday by the Ministry of Finance, thanks to shipments of shale natural gas in liquid form.

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