Chinese customs authorities have tightened radiation inspections for Japanese fresh fish and marine products, effectively suspending them from entering China. This import intimidation is seen as the Xi Jinping regime's tactic for opposing the release of treated water from TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea.
Customs clearance in Hong Kong is also being delayed by a similar increase in inspections. Those authorities are also directly influenced by the Chinese government. However, both are major destinations for Japanese food exports. For that reason, there is considerable concern about the damage to Japan.
China's Not Interested in the Science
What is most galling is that there is no scientific basis whatsoever for the Chinese measures. As Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno has said, China's slowdown of inspections runs counter to international moves to ease or eliminate restrictions on food imports from Japan.
The Japanese government intends to seek early elimination of these new requirements through discussion based on scientific evidence. Matsuno invited the Chinese government to have "discussions based on scientific evidence," instead of disseminating "incorrect information."
The World Trade Organization (WTO) and other forums must also harshly condemn China's practice. In addition, Japan should consider taking countermeasures in cooperation with the Group of Seven or G7 industrialized nations.
In short, China's acts are economic coercion and must be met by a firm response.
Treated Water Release Hasn't Started
In the past Chinese customs authorities had conducted random spot-check radiation inspections of Japanese seafood. However, it now appears that they have switched to full-scale 100% inspections. As a result, customs clearance now takes two weeks to a month. That means freshness for sashimi and other products cannot be maintained.
Of course, the release of the treated water has not even begun yet. So, what rational explanation could there be for the enhanced inspections?
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs contends it has solid grounds to oppose the plan and take related measures to protect the health of the Chinese people and their marine environment. But that is nothing more than pure sophistry.
Japan's plan conforms to international safety standards. And testing by the responsible international organization concluded that there were no problems with it. (Watch the IAEA's video explaining its conclusions.) Beijing's attacks on the safety of the plan are nothing more than malicious propaganda.
A Tried and True Chinese Tactic
On top of that, the Chinese government has been encouraging fabrications and groundless rumors by claiming that the treated water is "nuclear-contaminated water."
Up until now, Beijing has turned a deaf ear to Japan's requests for discussions based on scientific evidence. This behavior amounts to an implicit admission that the Chinese government's claims are absurd.
In fact, China's main aim seems to be to restrain Japan from taking hardline positions towards China regarding such issues as Taiwan and economic security, among others. No doubt the Chinese authorities are also seeking to test Japan. We should remain aware of that fact.
Economic coercion through delays in customs clearance and trade stoppages is a tried-and-true Chinese tactic. That was also the approach it used, for example, in 2010, when it imposed a de facto embargo on rare earth exports to Japan. And Beijing shows no inclination to abandon such behavior.
China has applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership known as CPTPP. However, in light of the measures it has taken regarding Japanese seafood, it should now be clear that its application should be rejected.
- Fukushima Daiichi Tritium: Dwarfed by China, Other Foreign Discharges
- Official: Fukushima Water Release Will Have 'Negligible Impact' on the Environment
- Safer than Safe: Inside Fukushima’s Food Monitoring System
(Read the editorial in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun