Japan says freeing up 'trigger clause' on gasoline tax among options to curb prices

(Corrects subsidy figure to 5 yen from 50 yen in last paragraph of Feb 21 story)

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will consider a variety of options, including freeing up a trigger clause on gasoline tax, if crude oil prices continue to remain high in the future, a top government spokesperson said on Monday.

"We are not considering unfreezing the trigger clause at this moment, but if the situation of soaring crude oil prices becomes prolonged, the government as a whole will carefully consider all options, including the trigger clause, from the perspective of what is effective," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said during a media briefing.

The trigger clause aimed to trim taxes on gasoline and diesel when gasoline prices keep above 160 yen a litre for three months in a row, but was frozen to free up earthquake rebuilding funds for the northeast after a devastating 2011 quake and accompanying tsunami that caused nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima.

Japan implemented a temporary subsidy programme last month and has since raised the amount twice to hit a cap of 5 yen (4.35 cents) per litre.

($1 = 114.9400 yen)

(Reporting by Satoshi Sugiyama; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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