Japanese Marine Products: China Must Withdraw Its Unjustified Import Ban

China’s aim is clear. It intends to put political pressure on Japan by ignoring scientific evidence. The Chinese government should promptly lift its unilateral import ban.

The Chinese customs authorities have imposed a total ban on imports of Japanese marine products since Thursday, following the start of the release of treated water from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

China suspended imports of food products from Fukushima and nine other prefectures after the 2011 accident at the nuclear power plant. In early July, before the release of treated water began, it expanded testing for radioactive materials to all marine products imported from Japan, effectively halting imports of perishable marine products, where freshness is critical.

However, the latest Chinese decision is a blanket ban on seafood imports from Japan, including frozen and dried products.

Abandoning even the seemingly scientific logic of “confirming safety through testing” and banning all imports from Japan can only be viewed as a political attack, with total disregard for scientific evidence.

It suggests an intention to rattle Japan, which is strengthening its cooperation with the United States on such issues as Taiwan affairs and semiconductor-related export restrictions.

Putting pressure on other countries through trade restrictions is nothing but “economic coercion,” which the international community has expressed concern about regarding China. It is totally unacceptable.

This month, the European Union, Norway, Switzerland and other countries completely lifted import restrictions on Japanese food products. China’s import ban goes against the international trend.

Regarding the release of treated water into the ocean, the International Atomic Energy Agency has issued a report stating that the radiological impact on humans and the environment is “negligible.”

At a press conference organized by a British science organization, a British scientist said, “I don’t know any scientists in the field of radiological protection who are against it [the release.]”

China has been stirring up anxiety by calling the treated water “nuclear-contaminated water,” but such a stance has not spread globally. Beijing needs to listen seriously to the views of the international community.

China’s import ban will deal a heavy blow to Japanese fishermen. Exports of Japanese marine products to China totaled ¥87.1 billion last year, accounting for about 20% of the total, the highest percentage by country/region.

The government has set aside an ¥80 billion fund to take measures against harmful rumors in the wake of the treated water release. TEPCO also intends to offer compensation related to such problems.

The impact of the Chinese import ban will be felt throughout Japan. The government should take all possible measures to support fishermen, including expanding sales channels to other countries.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 26, 2023)