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Japan should take China to WTO over ban on Japanese seafood imports: Former UN official

September 18, 2023 10:59 AM

Tokyo : A former senior UN official has said Japan should take China to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over Beijing's decision to ban imports of Japanese fishery products following the release of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, Kyodo News reported. Kyodo News is a nonprofit cooperative news agency based in Minato, Tokyo.

Former UN undersecretary-general for communications and public information Kiyotaka Akasaka argued that Japan could file a complaint with the WTO as a "tactical move" to induce China to end the punitive action which Tokyo says is not based on scientific grounds.

The former UN official also suggested that Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and new Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa should further argue about the safety of the water discharge from the Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeastern Japan during a series of UN General Assembly meetings this week in New York to broaden international understanding.

"Even after lodging a formal complaint with the Geneva-based UN trade watchdog, Tokyo can still negotiate with Beijing because bilateral talks constitute the basis of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism," he said in a recent interview, as per Kyodo News.

Akasaka handled issues involving the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the precursor of the WTO, including a stint to the then-GATT Secretariat in Geneva, when he served at the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

He said: “Some people say bringing the case to the WTO could provoke Beijing and complicate the issue. But I believe Japan can do it as a tactical move to put pressure on China. I don't think China wants to dispute the issue with Japan at the WTO."

"Japan should continue negotiations with China bilaterally and use multilateral platforms such as the WTO to let Beijing better understand how isolated the country is on this issue, which we saw during Association of Southeast Asian Nations-related summits in Jakarta and the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi earlier this month," Akasaka said.

As per Kyodo News, Japan-China bilateral relations soured sharply after China imposed the ban following the first release into the Pacific Ocean on August 24 by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., operator of the Fukushima plant.

China took the measure even after the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded in July, after a two-year safety review, that revealed that the treated water discharge "will have a negligible radiological impact on people and the environment."

The amount of tritium, a radioactive material contained in the treated water to be released annually from the Fukushima plant, is about one-tenth of the amount of tritium discharged from Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant in China, according to the Japanese government.

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