Kuwait\'s crude oil exports to Japan grew 8.7 percent in December from a year earlier to 10.07 million barrels, or 325,000 barrels per day (bpd), the first expansion in two months, the government said Thursday. The figure was the highest since August, when Kuwait\'s crude shipments to the world\'s third-biggest energy user hit 10.90 million barrels (352,000 bpd), according to a preliminary report by the Japanese Natural Resources and Energy Agency. As Japan\'s fourth-biggest oil provider, Kuwait supplied 8.3 percent of the Asian nation\'s total crude imports, compared with 7.7 percent in the same month of 2011. Kuwait\'s exports to Japan in the full year 2012 totaled 98.07 million barrels (268,000 bpd), up 12.7 percent on the year. Japan\'s overall imports of crude oil edged up 1.1 percent year-on-year to 3. 91 million bpd for the first increase in four months. Shipments from the Middle East accounted for 84.5 percent of the total, up 1.4 percentage points from the year before. Saudi Arabia remained Japan\'s biggest oil supplier, with imports from the kingdom growing 6.1 percent on the year to 1.15 million bpd, followed by the United Arab Emirates with 886,000 bpd, down 0.2 percent. Qatar ranked third and its shipments went up 5.5 percent to 479,000 bpd and Iran was fifth with 209,000 bpd, down 36.9 percent. Resources-poor Japan is the world\'s third-largest oil consumer after the US and China, and it relies on crude oil imports for about 50 percent of its energy needs. Shipments of direct-deal, which prices are based on the average spot price of Dubai crude, the benchmark for Asia, account for about 80 percent of Japan\'s crude imports.