|Infographic from the International Gas Union.|
Two months ago I wrote a post with the title “Losing Taiwan Means Losing Japan.” It described how the loss of Taiwan to the PRC would put Japan in a geopolitically untenable position, as the PLA Navy would then be capable of choking Japan into submission if conflict ever arose between the two powers.
I thought back to that post as I read a report from the Financial Times on the difficulties Japan will face if its liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities are shut down because of the SARS-2 coronavirus:
Because LNG is poorly suited for long-term storage, Japan only has a two-week stockpile. Yet the country depends on the fuel for 40 per cent of its electric power generation, and all of the LNG it uses is imported from the Middle East and south-east Asia…..
Unlike oil, LNG is hard to stockpile. After the Arab oil shocks of the early 1970s, Japan passed a law to require stockpiling oil, and about 200 days of domestic consumption is stored together with the private sector. Even if there were a hindrance to the transportation of oil, “we can hold up until the infection subsides”, said an employee at a private energy company.
LNG, meanwhile, cannot be held in large volume because of its composition. To ship over long distances, the gas is chilled to minus 162C, at which point it becomes liquid. But it evaporates as it is being transported. That is why Japan has only two weeks’ worth of LNG at any given time.
It takes about a month to ship the LNG from the Middle East to Japan. With shipments arriving constantly, a few missed shipments would not immediately signal a crisis. But an extended cut-off would spell trouble for the country. 
The connection to that previous post should be obvious. However, as I am not especially familiar with LNG infrastructure, I am left pondering a few questions. I encourage readers more knowledgeable than myself to take them up in the comments.
The Financial Times describes a nation that can easily be paralyzed by losing just a few key nodes in its LNG offloading infrastructure. If damaged in war, how quickly could such infrastructure be rebuilt? How possible is it to harden these targets from ballistic missile attack? In the event of war, what is more economical: attacking the LNG port infrastructure or attacking the LNG ships bound for Japan? What percentage of the LNG carrier fleet that embarks in Japan is Japan-flagged? One suspects Mitsui O.S.K. Lines would have no choice but to continue supplying Japan in the face of commerce raiders, but would the fleets of Shell, Nakilat, et. al dare risk it?
 Suguru Kurimoto, “Hidden threat: Japan has only 2-week stockpile of LNG,” Financial Times (5 May 2020).