Japan's trade deficit rose again in May due to increasing imports of fuel as the country's nuclear power plants sit idle, official said Wednesday. Japan's Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report that the deficit exceeded 11 billion dollars. It was the 3rd straight monthly deficit and the largest deficit for the month of May since data became available in 1979, according to Japan's (NHK World) website. Exports rose 10 percent in yen terms from a year earlier, to over 66 billion dollars. That's due largely to an increase in shipments of autos to the United States. But imports also rose more than 9 percent, to over 77 billion dollars, due to a rise in imports of liquefied natural gas for thermal power generation. High prices of crude oil were also a factor. Trade with Europe dipped into negative territory for the first time since 1979. This comes as the Eurozone debt crisis dampened demand for semiconductors and other electronic components. The Finance Ministry said boosting exports will be the key to achieving a trade surplus, as imports will likely continue to rise. Officials will monitor the impact of the European debt crisis on China and the US, which are Japan's major trade partners.