JAPAN: Japan has strongly protested against China’s seafood ban, citing concerns over the discharge of treated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant, and has formally raised this issue with the World Trade Organization (WTO).
On 31 August, China notified WTO on its measures to suspend Japanese aquatic imports.
Expressing its deep dissatisfaction, the Japanese foreign ministry labeled China’s ban as “totally unacceptable”.
Japan would explain its positions in relevant WTO committees while urging China to revoke the action, the Japanese foreign ministry said late on Monday (4 September).
In addition to WTO proceedings, Japan is planning to present the safety of the discharged water at various diplomatic forums, including the upcoming ASEAN Summit and G20 Summit scheduled for this month.
While Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and China’s Premier Li Qiang are expected to participate in these events, it’s worth noting that Chinese President Xi Jinping will not be in attendance.
Furthermore, Japan has invoked discussions under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact as a means to address the import ban.
While marine products constitute a small fraction of Japan’s global trade, the nation exported approximately US$600 million worth of aquatic products to China in 2022, making it the largest market for Japanese exports after Hong Kong.
Recent data indicates a decline in Japan’s aquatic product exports to China, primarily due to more stringent inspections following Japan’s announcement of the Fukushima water release.
Japanese government allocates US$682 million to revitalize fisheries sector
To ease the pain of losing that seafood demand, Japan will spend more than 100 billion yen (US$682 million) to support the domestic fisheries industry after China’s total import ban on Japanese aquatic products.
The ban followed the start of Japan’s release of treated radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant last month.
The government had previously set up two funds worth 80 billion yen to help develop new markets and keep excess fish frozen until they can be sold when demand recovers, among other measures.
With the additional funding, from budget reserves, support would total 100.7 billion yen, Kishida said.
China enforces aquatic product ban as Japan releases Fukushima water
Japan initiated the release of treated radioactive water on 24 August 2023, from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, prompting China to impose a comprehensive ban on all aquatic products from Japan.
While Japan asserts the safety of the water discharge, China expresses concerns over radioactive contamination.
Japan requests the ban’s immediate lifting, emphasising scientific discussions.
The Fukushima Daiichi plant, damaged in a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, has started to release water over 17 days, with low tritium levels below international limits.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) corroborates the safety. Despite scientific reassurance, Japanese fishing groups remain opposed.
Hong Kong and Macau joined in the ban, while South Korea maintains restrictions on Fukushima products.
Protests and international reactions escalated, with demonstrators expressing concerns about the water discharge’s environmental impact and safety. North Korea condemns it as a “crime against humanity.”
Japan vows continued monitoring and the water release is estimated to span 30 years.
Protests erupt over Fukushima water release across Asia
Hong Kong activist Jacay Shum, 73, made a bold statement by displaying an image portraying IAEA head Rafael Grossi as the devil during protests against Japan’s discharge of contaminated water, according to Reuters.
Shum joined around 100 marchers, condemning Japan’s actions as irresponsible, illegal, and immoral, emphasizing doubts about the safety of nuclear waste.
In Seoul, South Korean police apprehended at least 16 demonstrators who entered the Japanese embassy, despite the South Korean government’s assertion that its own assessment found no scientific or technical issues with the water release.
North Korea’s foreign ministry labeled the water discharge a “crime against humanity” and demanded an immediate halt, state media reported.
In Tokyo, a group of protesters gathered at Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco)’s headquarters holding signs reading “Don’t throw contaminated water into the sea!”
One protester, 71-year-old Jun Iizuka, quoted by Reuters, stressed that “The Fukushima nuclear disaster is not over. This time only around 1% of the water will be released. From now on, we will keep fighting for a long time to stop the long-term discharge of contaminated water.”