Japan to Continue Urging China to Lift Fishery Ban; Prepared for Talks Over Treated Water to Be Prolonged

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands at the beginning of the Japan-China summit in San Francisco in November.

The Japanese government intends to continue urging China to lift its ban on imports of Japanese fisheries products, while monitoring the progress of talks between Japanese and Chinese experts on the release of treated water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Since there is little prospect that China will soften its stance any time soon, Japan is preparing for the discussions to be prolonged as it continues efforts to provide thorough explanations to other countries.

The talks were realized at the request of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during the Japan-China summit in November. The first meeting was held online in January and attended by representatives from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. and government officials from both countries, in addition to experts.

According to Tokyo, dialogues between experts from both countries had already taken place before that. The meeting in January had both Tokyo and Beijing expanding its participants.

Although there were no signs of compromise on issues such as how to monitor treated water, Japan is focusing on China’s willingness to engage in dialogue. Until recently, China was all out in protesting the release of the water, but Japan has seen possible signs of change. When Beijing had a director-general-level meeting with Tokyo on Feb. 2, it maintained a strict stance but also announced that both sides agreed to continue communicating.

In response to China’s ban on Japanese fisheries products, some within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and other officials initially called for filing a lawsuit with the World Trade Organization. However, the government “deemed it would be better to continue dialogues for the time being than to resort to excessive confrontation,” a senior official said.

As the talks continue, Beijing may ask Tokyo for concessions to save face. However, Tokyo does not intend to meet demands that are not based on scientific evidence, some believe that negotiations will be prolonged

At a ministerial meeting of the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM), held this month in Fiji’s capital of Suva, Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa devoted much of her time to seeking understanding from participating countries on the issue of treated water. She also confirmed that the topic will be a “standing agenda item” to be discussed again at the PALM summit scheduled in July.