Japanese Govt to Step up Diplomatic Offensive against China for Ban on Seafood Imports; Focusing on Boosting Support for Fisheries Industry

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shakes hands with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi in Tokyo in July.

The government is stepping up its diplomatic offensive against China in response to Beijing’s complete ban on seafood imports from Japan over the discharge of treated water from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean.

Japan aims to “isolate” China by cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which says the release is consistent with relevant international standards, and with related countries. The government also plans to boost its support for the domestic fisheries industry.

On Friday, a day after the start of the discharge, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura each held a video conference with IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi.

Hayashi expressed his gratitude for the IAEA’s strong message of continued involvement in Fukushima. “Japan will continue to take all possible measures to ensure its safety,” Hayashi emphasized to Grossi.

IAEA experts stationed at the plant on Thursday measured the concentration of tritium in diluted advanced liquid processing system (ALPS) treated water that was to be released from the plant for the first time, and confirmed that it was far less than the regulatory standard of 1,500 becquerels per liter.

Grossi responded to Hayashi’s remarks by pointing out that the level was far lower than expected. He also stated that IAEA experts are on the ground to serve as the eyes of the international community, while reiterating that the IAEA will assist until the last drop of the water has been discharged.

Hayashi held a phone conversation with Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alicia Barcena the same day, and won her support for the discharge, with Barcena telling Hayashi that she is confident that Japan will comply with international standards.

China decided to suspend seafood imports from Japan on Thursday without providing any scientific basis. The same day, the Japanese government phoned the Chinese ambassador to Japan to protest and demand immediate lifting of the ban. A senior foreign ministry official said, “China probably no longer knows how to unclench its fist.”

Some within the government are even calling for appealing to the World Trade Organization. But first, Japan intends to encourage China to lift the import ban, by making efforts such as trying to arrange a Japan-China summit meeting on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit meetings to be held in September. Also, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will reportedly make business pitches at international meetings to increase sales channels for Japanese marine products.

Should the seafood ban remain in place, it would inevitably be a blow to the domestic fisheries industry.

At a press conference on Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno indicated that the government will support the development of marketing channels, other than in China, by utilizing a ¥30 billion fund set aside to deal with harmful rumors and other issues.

Until now, China has imported scallops with shells from Japan and removed the shells, before exporting the scallops to other countries. The government is considering supporting the construction of domestic processing facilities to remove the shells and directly export the scallops from Japan.

“As to reinforcing the processing system [of marine products] in accordance with the need for new export destinations, the government will take necessary measures,” Matsuno said, indicating that the government would consider extending support beyond the fund for investment in processing facilities.