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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Removal of Seoul’s ban on Japan goods seen as distant goal

  • September 11, 2019
  • , Jiji Press , 02:16 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Sept. 11 (Jiji Press)–Former Japanese Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada’s suggestion of the release of treated radioactive water into the sea is likely to make it even harder to persuade South Korea to lift its import ban on some Japanese fishery products.

Seoul may maintain the embargo for a long time as the former minister made the remark at a time when negotiations between the two countries were bogged down due to deteriorated bilateral ties, observers say.

Harada said Tuesday, the day before a cabinet reshuffle, that the only option available to dispose of treated radioactive water at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s <9501> disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant is to release it into the Pacific Ocean.

Following the 2011 meltdown accident at the plant in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima, South Korea imposed the import ban on fishery products from eight prefectures–Aomori, Iwate, Fukushima, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba–out of concerns about radioactive contamination.

After requesting South Korea in vain to lift the ban by showing safety data, Japan filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization in 2015.

In February 2018, the WTO Dispute Settlement Body backed Japan’s claim, saying the import ban amounted to unfair discrimination. Reversing the verdict, however, the WTO’s Appellate Body issued a final ruling in April this year tolerating the South Korean ban.

“Japan is ready to continue to seek the scrapping” of the embargo, former fisheries minister Takamori Yoshikawa has said. But the negotiations made little headway as Japan-South Korea relations have been frosty due to wartime labor and other issues.

Following Harada’s comment, a resigned mood was widespread in the fisheries ministry. “The image of fisheries products from the eight prefectures will inevitably be damaged. There is no hope (of the lifting of the ban) for the time being,” a senior official said.

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