'Totally Unacceptable': Japan Protests China’s Fukushima-Related Seafood Ban at WTO

'Totally Unacceptable': Japan Protests China’s Fukushima-Related Seafood Ban at WTO - Japan has filed a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against China's ban on Japanese seafood over the release of treated wastewater from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant.

'Totally Unacceptable': Japan Protests China’s Fukushima-Related Seafood Ban at WTO

'Totally Unacceptable': Japan Protests China’s Fukushima-Related Seafood Ban at WTO

Japan has filed a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against China's ban on Japanese seafood over the release of treated wastewater from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant.

China announced a blanket ban on all Japanese aquatic products after Japan began releasing treated radioactive water from the Fukushima power plant on Aug. 24.

Japan's Foreign Ministry said Monday that it had submitted a counterargument to the WTO—which oversees the rules for global trade—explaining the safety of the treated radioactive water release.

The ministry said that Beijing's import ban was "totally unacceptable" and urged the Chinese government to repeal its measure. It added that Japan would continue to explain its position in relevant WTO committees.

In the document (pdf), the ministry emphasized that Japan's standard for the release of tritium, which is below 22 trillion becquerels per year, is lower than those released by China's nuclear reactors.

"For instance, the amount of tritium to be released annually from [Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station] is approximately one-tenth of the amount of tritium released from Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant in China," it stated.

"China adopted the measure to suspend import of all aquatic products from Japan notwithstanding the above-mentioned scientific information provided by Japan. Thus, China’s implementation of the measure cannot be regarded as being based on scientific principles," it added.

In a separate statement on Sept. 4, the ministry said it had requested a discussion with China regarding the import ban in accordance with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact.

“It is extremely regretful that China has taken these measures, and Japan has been urging China to immediately repeal its measures,” the ministry stated.

Fishery workers unload seafood caught in offshore trawl fishing at Matsukawaura port in Soma City, Fukushima prefecture in Japan, on Sept. 1, 2023. (JIJI Press/AFP via Getty Images)
Fishery workers unload seafood caught in offshore trawl fishing at Matsukawaura port in Soma City, Fukushima prefecture in Japan, on Sept. 1, 2023. (JIJI Press/AFP via Getty Images)

The Japanese embassy in Beijing has revealed that ever since the treated water’s discharge began, harassment toward Japanese parties has escalated. Activities planned at the embassy have been postponed due to a deluge of hostile phone calls originating from China.

Namazu Hiroyuki, the director-general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, conveyed Japan’s formal complaint to Yang Yu, China’s deputy ambassador to Japan.

Japan PM Pledges to Protect Fisheries Industry

In a phone call on Aug. 27, Mr. Hiroyuki expressed “profound regret and concern” over China’s actions regarding the release of Fukushima's treated wastewater. He also pressed for Beijing to disseminate factual information concerning the treated nuclear water.

On Aug. 27, Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, emphasized the importance of transparency in an interview with NHK.

“We’ve already released data for the past two days, revealing tritium levels that are even below detectable limits,” he said.

On Aug. 30, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, along with three Cabinet ministers, ate a selection of sashimi to show its safety. They ate flounder, octopus, and sea bass, freshly caught off the Fukushima coast.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida eats the seafood from Fukushima prefecture at lunch at the prime minister's office in Tokyo on Aug. 30, 2023. (Cabinet Public Affairs Office via AP)
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida eats the seafood from Fukushima prefecture at lunch at the prime minister's office in Tokyo on Aug. 30, 2023. (Cabinet Public Affairs Office via AP)

Mr. Kishida announced a 20.7 billion yen ($140 million) emergency fund on Sept. 4 to help exporters hit by China's ban on Japanese seafood and pledged "to protect the Japanese fisheries industry at all costs.”

The money will be used to find new markets for Japanese seafood to replace China and fund government purchases of seafood for temporary freezing and storage. The government will also seek to expand domestic seafood consumption.

Officials said they plan to cultivate new export destinations in Taiwan, the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and some southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Singapore.

Mainland China is the biggest overseas market for Japanese seafood, accounting for 22.5 percent of the total, followed by Hong Kong with 20 percent, making the ban a major blow for the fisheries industry.

US 'Stands Firmly' With Japan

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel visited the Fukushima region on Aug. 31 and had a seafood lunch with the mayor of Soma City to show his support.

Mr. Emanuel told reporters that he had "no reservations" about the safety of his activities and engagements in Soma City, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Japan.

"The United States stands firmly with Japan, especially when contrasted with China's overtly political decision to ban all Japanese seafood imports and past failures in openness and scientific cooperation," he said.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant was destroyed in March 2011 after a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake generated powerful tsunami waves, causing meltdowns in three reactors.

According to plant operator TEPCO, the water discharge will contain about 190 becquerels of tritium per liter, below the World Health Organization's drinking water limit of 10,000 becquerels per liter. A becquerel is a unit of radioactivity.

Jon Sun, Sean Tseng, Reuters, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.