TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sampled seafood and talked to workers at Tokyo’s Toyosu fish market Thursday to assess the impact of China’s ban on Japanese seafood in reaction to the release of treated radioactive wastewater from the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi plant to the sea.
The release of the treated wastewater began last week and is expected to continue for decades. Japanese fishing groups and neighboring countries opposed it, and China immediately banned all imports of Japanese seafood in response.
One of the seafood business operators told Kishida that sales of his scallops, which had come largely from China, have dropped 90% since the treated water discharge.
“We will compile support measures that stand by the fisheries operators,” Kishida told reporters after the market visit. “We will also resolutely call on China to scrap its trade restrictions that has no scientific bases.”
China had stepped up testing on Japanese fisheries products, causing long delays at customs, even before the water release and its ban. Japanese Fisheries Agency officials said the measure has affected prices and sales of seafood not from Fukushima but from as far away as Hokkaido.
Government officials have called for Japanese consumers to eat more scallops to help support hard-hit exporters, while finding new export destinations in Europe and the United States.
All seawater and fish sampling data since the release have been way below set safety limits for radioactivity, officials and the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings say.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno on Wednesday hinted at an option of taking the case to the World Trade Organization. He said Japan has raised past issues concerning China’s trade restrictions without scientific basis, and that “Japan will consider various options while continuing to work within the WTO framework to decide necessary steps.” Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi stressed the importance of dialogue.
The impact of China’s ban on Japanese seafood has spilled over to tourism. Transport and Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito has said cancellations of Chinese group tourists and inquiries about food safety in Japan have been on the rise and that officials are assessing the situation.
Officials and reports say thousands of crank calls from China have targeted Fukushima government offices and the nuclear plant’s operator, as well as the Foreign Ministry. Many of the callers shouted in Chinese, and some yelled “stupid” and used swear words.
Ill feelings have been growing in Japan, too.
In Tokyo, a sign at a Japanese-style bar warning “the Chinese” that it’s only serving food from Fukushima caught the attention of a Chinese V-tuber, who called police complaining of discrimination. The owner changed the sign but refused to talk.
The radioactive wastewater has accumulated since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that wrecked the plant and caused meltdowns in three of its reactors. The 1.34 million tons of water is stored in about 1,000 tanks and continues to accumulate because of leaks and the use of cooling water.
The government and TEPCO say discharging the water into the sea is unavoidable because the tanks will reach capacity early next year and space at the plant will be needed for the decommissioning work that is expected to take decades.
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