Japan-China Foreign Ministers Make Little Headway on Fukushima Discharge Spat

Courtesy of the Japanese Foreign Ministry
Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa, left, speaks with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, right, in Busan, South Korea, on Saturday afternoon.

BUSAN, South Korea — Japan and China didn’t get far toward reconciling over the discharge of treated water in Fukushima when their foreign ministers met in Busan, South Korea, on Saturday.

In her first meeting with her Beijing counterpart, Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa sought an immediate end to China’s ban on seafood imports from Japan imposed over the release of treated water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. But the two sides are still far apart on the discharge, and no specific progress has been made on the issue.

While Japan hopes to start scientific discussions among experts from both countries at an early date, China continues to demean the monitoring mechanism. It remains uncertain whether the two countries will be able to find common ground.

“Recognizing there are differences in our respective positions, we will try to find ways to resolve issues through consultations and dialogue in a constructive manner,” Kamikawa told reporters after the meeting, referring to discussions with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the discharge.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping also expressed a mutual desire to find ways to “resolve issues through consultation and dialogue in a constructive manner” at their summit in the United States on Nov. 16.

Japan has repeatedly called for discussions among the two countries’ experts since the treated water discharge started in August, but China has not acted. Now though, China has shifted slightly on the issue and “begun looking for that moment when it can lower its raised fists,” a high-ranking government official said.

However, China still insists on its own independent monitoring, and it may take some time for the two countries to agree to start talks among experts.

In October, China took part in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s monitoring off Fukushima Prefecture. But Chinese diplomatic sources say the country should be allowed to take samples on its own, including during treatment of the water before it is discharged.

In his talks with Kamikawa, Wang said China is against Japan’s “irresponsible actions,” according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Japan, for its part, has won support and understanding from the international community by having the IAEA evaluate the discharge process, and Kamikawa reportedly told Wang that monitoring will be carried out only through the IAEA.

China seems unlikely to end its ban on seafood imports from Japan anytime soon. A senior Foreign Ministry official said that it will probably take time for China to change its stance even if talks among experts start.

In her meeting with Wang, Kamikawa also called for the early release of Japanese nationals detained in China and the removal of a buoy installed by China within Japan’s exclusive economic zone.