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Tension flares with Japan over Korea’s fisheries import ban

Japanese delegation to visit Seoul to request explanation for ban

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Published : 2013-09-15 21:11
Updated : 2013-09-15 21:11

The Japanese government is moving to protest South Korea’s ban on all fisheries products from Fukushima and adjacent regions for fear of radioactive exposure, posing another strain on the bilateral relations already frayed by historical rows.

A high-ranking official at Japan’s Fisheries Agency is set to visit South Korea on Monday in an apparent move to pressure Seoul into lifting the import ban, reports said.

Kenji Kagawa, director-general of Resources Enhancement Promotion Department, will request the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety officials in Sejong City to explain the basis of the restriction, according to the reports.

The agency is also reviewing plans to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization if it does not receive an “acceptable” explanation for the ban, Japan’s Sankei Shimbun reported.

Last week, the Korean government placed import bans on 50 fisheries in Fukushima and seven other prefectures ― Ibaraki, Gunma, Miyagi, Iwate, Tochigi, Chiba and Aomori ― as public apprehension aggravated over the “lax safety control” of fisheries products.

Along with the ban, the Korean government lowered the allowed the level of radiation in fisheries products from 370 becquerels per kilogram to 100 becquerels.

Korea is the latest to join a series of import bans from Japan’s neighboring countries.

Immediately after the nuclear accident in 2011, China and Taiwan banned the imports of seafood, dairy and vegetable products from Japan. But no legal countermeasure was taken by the Japanese government.

Public criticism has been high here over the government’s lax standards on imports of fish from its neighbor. About 3,010 tons of fish contaminated with radioactive materials in varying levels have been brought into the country since the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The Japanese government’s refusal to provide detailed information about the leaks has also added to the strong public backlash and radiation scare.

Japanese officials in July confirmed long-held suspicions that the crippled reactors have been leaking water contaminated with radioactive materials. Tokyo Electric Power Corp., the operator, said some 300 tons of contaminated water has been seeping into the ocean every day.

Despite Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s continued assurance that “everything is under control,” the plant’s operator announced Saturday that tritium in a recent sample measured 150,000 becquerels per liter, more than twice the limit accepted for release into the ocean.

Experts say the Fukushima accident is the biggest nuclear crisis after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

To stop the leaks Japan has announced an expensive experimental plan to create a 1.4-kilometer wall of frozen soil around the plant to prevent groundwater from entering the reactor buildings.

Creating such an underground barrier is often used for subway construction, and the technique was once used on a smaller scale in Tennessee for six years to separate radioactive waste.

By Suk Gee-hyun (monicasuk@heraldcorp.com)

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