SOMA (Reuters) – U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel visited the Fukushima region on Thursday and told reporters he expected the United States to support Japan if China’s ban on Japanese seafood develops into a dispute at the World Trade Organization. ).
Japan began releasing treated radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean last Thursday, prompting China, Japan’s largest trading partner, to impose a ban on Japanese aquatic products.
Japanese officials have indicated the possibility of diplomatic action to urge China to lift its ban, which Japan says is not based on scientific evidence, including filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization.
“If Japan decides to make this effort, the United States will stand by it, not only because it is an ally, but because there is legitimacy to the issue,” he added, but he added that he could not prejudge what might happen. Such support will ultimately be up to the relevant US government agencies.
Japan exported aquatic products worth about $600 million to China in 2022, making it the largest market for Japanese seafood exports, followed by Hong Kong, which announced a ban on seafood imports from 10 Japanese regions after the Fukushima water release.
Japan has sought an immediate end to the ban imposed by China, and has also complained of a barrage of harassing phone calls since the water dumping.
“The economic coercion against Japan, the robocalls for harassment and disinformation both here in Japan and around it, comes straight from China’s playbook,” Emanuel said. “This is all politics.”
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Tokyo’s largest fish market on Thursday and said his government would put in place measures to help the fishing industry by early next week.
The government will use tens of billions of yen (hundreds of millions of dollars) from budget reserves this fiscal year to finance the measures, the Nikkei newspaper reported.
Kishida told reporters after his visit to the fish market in Toyosu that requests from the industry included support for companies to develop new markets and discussions with China.
The government has set up two funds worth 80 billion yen ($548 million) to help develop new markets and keep surplus fish frozen so they can be sold when demand recovers, among other measures.
In the city of Soma, near the wrecked nuclear plant, Emanuel had lunch with the city’s mayor, Hidekyo Tachiya, and ate locally caught seafood. He also bought seafood from a supermarket and sampled Fukushima peaches while mingling with shoppers.
($1 = 146.0200 yen)
(Reporting by Chris Gallagher in Soma and Sakura Murakami and Kantaro Komiya in Tokyo – Preparing by Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin) Editing by Stephen Coates, Lincoln Feast and Michael Perry
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