Japanese coal imports will continue to increase, but not necessarily from the United States and only proportionately more from Australia.

That is the forecast for the world's most important coal import market, expressed by Japan's Institute of Energy Economics.Speaking at the recent biannual conference of the Australian Coal Association, the institute's president, Toyoaki Ikuta, said Japanese coal imports would increase following a higher demand for electricity, growing opposition to nuclear power and lower- than-expected domestic coal production.

But he emphasized that the Japanese government would reject what he described as strong political and diplomatic pressure from the United States to buy steaming coal, particularly from Alaska.

The Japanese government and utilities are cooperating to counteract America's aggressive request, he said.

Mr. Ikuta said it was well known, and openly acknowledged by U.S. trade officials, that U.S. coal was considerably more expensive.

Australia in recent years has been highly critical of U.S. pressure on Japan to increase imports of U.S. coal to reduce the large trade gap between the two countries.

Australia has stressed frequently that it would be in the best interest of both Japan and Australia for Japan to resist the U.S. pressure.

But Australian producers are well aware that they can expect greater competition from the United States now that U.S. exports are less restricted by overloaded ports than in previous years.

Mr. Ikuta said he believed Australia would increase its export sales to Japan, although Australia's share of 50 percent of the market would remain stable.

It seems to me very difficult for Australia to increase its share. Fifty percent seems to be almost the maximum, he said.

He said the policy of the Japanese government to diversify supply sources

from an energy security aspect would be a crucial issue in determining imports.

He noted that China was an attractive alternative source of supply. The Chinese were keen to increase exports to Western Pacific markets.

Mr. Ikuta said the need for a revision of Japan's steaming coal requirements could spring from mounting opposition to nuclear power.

About 30 percent of Japan's electricity needs come from nuclear power plants. Japan is one of the world's largest producers of nuclear energy.

Mr. Ikuta said new construction of nuclear power stations in Japan will face difficulty because of the new-style strong opposition movement.

He added that present growth in electricity demand now exceeded all previous forecasts, and this pointed to a constant rise in steaming coal demand.