TOKYO -- A leading Japanese business lobby on Thursday played down risks to the economy from the U.S.-led military attack on Iraq but hoped for a quick end to the war.
Yoshihisa Akiyama, head of the Kansai Economic Federation based in the western city of Osaka, said the authorities should step up cooperation to ensure economic and financial stability.
"As for the nation's energy supply now that war has begun, we have sufficient means to cope, such as state stockpiles, so we are not in a situation where we see the war inflicting any major damage on the economy's fundamentals," said Akiyama, who is also chairman of Kansai Electric Power Co. Inc.
Resource-poor Japan imports virtually all its crude oil, some 85 percent or more of which comes from the Middle East.
Official data show that Japan's private sector stockpiles had enough oil for 79 days and state stockpiles enough for 92 days at the end of January.
Trade Minister Takeo Hiranuma said on Thursday that he saw no need at this point to release any oil from the stockpiles.
Although Japanese companies expect little impact from the war for the moment, they are concerned that sentiment in the U.S. might be hit if the war drags on, hurting the sales of exporters such as Sony Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp.
Sony, the world's largest consumer electronics maker, said it expected no direct impact on its operations but was naturally concerned about the implications for the world economy.
Sony earns 70 percent of its revenue abroad. Its Middle East operations are largely limited to sales and marketing.
Most Japanese car makers said that, as long as the conflict was short, they would have sufficient inventories to supply cars to Europe and the Middle East even if some shipping routes were blocked off.
"The attack has only just begun, so all we can do now is wait and see how the situation develops. At this point, we're not doing anything out of the ordinary, although we have contingency plans if and when they are needed," said a spokesman for Toyota, the nation's biggest automaker.
Toyota has said that, if necessary, it would use either air or different shipping routes to send parts to its overseas manufacturing facilities if the Suez Canal was closed.
Car officials warned that a spike in oil prices could deal a heavy blow to demand all over the world, and especially Japan, where gasoline prices are already comparatively high.
Japan's number-two airline, All Nippon Airways Co. Ltd., said it was drawing up measures to cope with the war.
"We are putting together some measures in response. Our first priority is the safety of our airline travel, and we have been putting together measures related to that," said a spokesman for ANA. He did not elaborate.
A spokesman for rival Japan Airlines System Corp. said it had no plans to take special measures at this point but added: "It obviously depends on how things develop and how demand moves. If the need arises, it's a possibility that we could reduce flights, but at this point we are not considering it."