Japan contrite over water dump

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Japan contrite over water dump


Members of the Korean Federation for Environment Movement and the Asian Citizen’s Center for Environment and Health put on a performance yesterday about the dangers of radioactive rain at Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul. [YONHAP]

After Korea gave a stiff protest to Japan over not being warned about the dumping of tons of radioactive water into the Pacific, Tokyo yesterday said it will keep Seoul better informed in the future.

Japan also denied that it informed the United States in advance of the release from its crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, saying that the U.S. might have learned about the planned release from American scientists stationed at the plant.

Reacting to the furor in Korea, the Japanese foreign ministry yesterday morning briefed a Korean diplomat in Tokyo.

“They said Korea was the first country Japan informed after the release of the water,” said an official of Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “They said Japan is aware of Korea’s complaint about the lack of prior bilateral discussion, and will try exchanging related information with Korea more swiftly.”

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano admitted yesterday that authorities failed to handle the situation properly when deciding to dump more than 10,000 tons of contaminated water into the Pacific.

“Our explanation about discharging the low-level radioactive water into the sea was insufficient to fishermen and neighboring countries,” said Edano. “It was inevitable to prevent more serious contamination, but we should have provided more detailed and polite explanations to concerned people and countries.”

But Japan was lukewarm to Korea’s proposal to jointly monitor the radioactivity. Seoul made the offer Tuesday, and Tokyo responded yesterday by saying that “it will consider the plan internally,” a Korean Foreign Ministry official said.

With airborne radioactivity expected to reach the Korean Peninsula today, and the possibility that rain will precipitate it, the Lee Myung-bak administration yesterday formed an interministerial task force to oversee the situation and vowed to increase efforts to guarantee food safety.

Yesterday, Lee visited the Korea Food and Drug Administration, inspected its laboratory and urged authorities to step up its monitoring efforts.

“The people are feeling more nervous,” Lee was quoted as saying by spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung. “And the Korean people have very high expectations in regards to food safety, so we must improve tests on imported food products.”

Lee also ordered authorities to inform the public quickly and accurately about screening outcomes to maintain public trust.

According to Kim, Lee asked what the government will do to calm public concerns about contaminated foods, even if their levels of radioactivity are within allowable standards.

“The authorities are considering taking action against imported products even if their radioactivity levels are within the standards in order to reassure the public,” Kim quoted Noh Yun-hong, commissioner of the Korea Food and Drug Administration, as saying.

Noh said a separate contamination standard will be created for infants and children because they are more vulnerable to radioactive iodine exposure.

“We cannot suddenly ban imports or change standards because it could prompt international disputes,” said a government official. “We are trying to make the strongest standards of any other country.”

The Blue House also hosted a meeting of concerned ministries and authorities in the morning to check on the nation’s readiness for a prolonged nuclear crisis in Japan.

Plans to improve the safety of Korea’s nuclear power plants and heighten maritime contamination monitoring were discussed, as well as making more information available to the public.

The discussions continued at a second meeting hosted by the Prime Minister’s Office. At that meeting, the government decided to form an intergovernmental task force to monitor the situation and hold two weekly meetings to follow up on the situation.

As the government struggles to show it’s ready to deal with the contamination crisis, both ruling and opposition parties expressed frustration with Japan.

“It is extremely regretful,” said Grand National Chairman Ahn Sang-soo about Japan’s lack of warning about the discharge of the contaminated water. “Korea is its closest neighbor, so it is not only courtesy but also the responsibility of Japan to provide enough information in advance and seek our understanding.”

Democratic Party floor leader Park Jie-won condemned Japan for the dumping of the water but also blamed the government’s “incompetence” in diplomacy for allowing Tokyo not to warn it in advance.

By Ser Myo-ja, Moon Gwang-lip [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [CBS노컷]

정부, 원전사태 장기화 대비 범정부 T/F 구성

방사능 오염 진전상황에 따라 대응 시나리오 만들어 대처하기로

정부는 일본 원전의 방사능 누출사고와 관련해 범정부기관이 참여하는 T/F를 구성해 일본 방사능 오염의 진전상황에 따라 대응 시나리오를 만들어 대처해 나가기로 했다.

정부는 6일 청와대에서 과학기술비서관 주재로 일본 원전 방사능 관련 유관기관 대책회의를 열어 일본의 방사능 물질 누출 장기화에 대비해 정부기관간 역할을 분담하고 협력체계를 강화해 국민불안을 해소하고 안정감을 줄수 있는 종합대책을 수립하기로 했다.

정부는 우선 일본 방사능 오염의 진전상황에 따라 대응시나리오를 만들어 즉시 대처방안을 마련하기로 했다.

또 국민들이 궁금해 할 사안에 대해서는 인터넷 등을 통해 사전에 자료를 제공함으로써 정부에 대한 신뢰를 강화하기로 했으며 빗물에 방사능이 포함됐는 지 여부에 대해서는 비가 올때마다 분석해 내용을 공개하기로 했다.

이와함께, 외교부는 일본 원전상황에 대한 신속한 정보공유, 교과부는 대기나 해수의 방사능 물질 측정 공개와 국내 원전에 대한 정밀안전점검, 농식품부는 농출수산물의 방사능 안전성 확보를 담당하기로 하는 등 기관간 역할을 분담했다.

청와대 김희정 대변인은 "정부기관별로 방사능 대책을 점검하고 일본의 방사능 물질 누출 장기화에 대비하기 위해 T/F를 구성 운영하기로 했다"며 "앞으로 총리실 주관으로 주 2회 T/F회의를 열기로 했다"고 밝혔다.

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