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Japan’s double standard
Publication Date : 18-09-2013
The Tokyo government is pressuring Seoul to lift its recently expanded ban on fisheries imports from radiation-hit Fukushima and seven adjacent prefectures.
A group of nine Japanese officials visited the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety on Monday to officially demand that Seoul withdraw the measure, which they said was not based on scientific evidence.
Last week, the Seoul government extended its existing import ban on 50 types of fish to all types of fisheries imports.
The measure was designed to address a food scare that erupted following the admission last month by Tokyo Electric Power Co. that 300 tonnes of contaminated water had leaked from one of the hastily built storage tanks at the crippled Fukushima power plant.
The leak contaminated groundwater below the plant site. The result is about 400 tonnes of radioactive groundwater gushing into the Pacific Ocean each day.
The reports caused consumption of fish and fisheries products ― domestic or imported ― to plunge, dealing a harsh blow to fishers, fishmongers and sushi restaurants. Korea had to extend its ban on imports from Japan to calm contamination concerns.
Yet Tokyo thinks that Seoul’s response is excessive, given that it conducts intense checkups on its fish exports and stops shipping products when radiation readings are above international standards.
But before complaining about Seoul’s move, Tokyo should understand that what drove Seoul to act as it did was its failure to provide Seoul with detailed and accurate information about what was happening at Fukushima.
Seoul’s reaction also reflected its distrust of the Tokyo government, which was fueled by Japanese leaders’ disingenuous reassurances that the Fukushima plant was “under control”, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
For instance, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently told an International Olympic Committee meeting in Buenos Aires, where Tokyo was chosen as the host city for 2020, that the plant was “under control”.
Last Friday, however, new evidence emerged that radioactive contamination was out of control. Tepco said that the levels of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, in groundwater taken close to the leaked storage tank had risen 36-fold over five days.
It should be also noted that Japan is applying a double standard in protesting Seoul’s import ban. It is not taking the same action against China, which banned all fishery and agricultural imports from 10 Japanese prefectures two years ago.
Russia and Taiwan have also banned all fishery imports from 10 and five prefectures adjacent to Fukushima, respectively, but Tokyo has not protested.