The comments could not immediately be confirmed after office hours in the U.S. Earlier, media reports said this was a possibility. Autos are a big issue in trade talks between the two countries that began after President Donald Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade bloc. Japan is part of the TPP and has a trade deal with the European Union.
The trade surplus with the U.S. has long been a sticking point in bilateral relations. Trump is set to visit Japan later this month. The administration sees the threat of the auto tariffs and other restrictions as a way to gain leverage over trading partners such as the European Union and Japan in ongoing trade talks.
A decision on whether the White House will impose tariffs on autos from Europe is due by Saturday. CNBC, quoting unnamed sources, earlier reported that the administration was close to announcing a postponement of the auto tariffs for up to six months.