Japan sends rude radiation reply

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Japan sends rude radiation reply

Only 8 percent of Japan’s marine products exceed radiation standards, according to a Tokyo’s official response to Korea’s questions about contamination from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, said a Korean lawmaker.

Democratic Party Representative Park Byeong-seug, vice speaker of the National Assembly and member of its Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee, yesterday revealed that Tokyo responded to Korean inquiries by saying that 8 percent of its marine products exceeded its allowed amount of radioactive cesium of 100 becquerel per kilogram.

That level alone, Park said, justified Seoul’s import restrictions on Japan’s fishery products.

The official response said that Japan conducted 35,755 tests of fish caught in its waters in 2012, including 13,000 caught in Fukushima waters, and of these, more than 33,000, or 92 percent, did not exceed radiation standards.

Some 17 percent of fish caught in Fukushima waters did not pass standards, Tokyo said. Excluding the catch from Fukushima waters, 97.9 percent of fish in Japan did not exceed radiation limits, it said.

South Korea banned fisheries products from Fukushima and seven adjacent prefectures on Sept. 6 following reports of new leaks of contaminated water into the ocean from the plant crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

“Taking into consideration that the Korean government implemented bans on products from eight prefectures including Fukushima only in September, there is a chance that a considerable amount of radiation-contaminated fish has been imported,” said Park.

He added that though Japan claims that the radiation at Fukushima has decreased by 10 percent compared to right after the accident, “the amount shows that our measures to restrict imports are quite justifiable.”

Japan on Saturday requested the World Trade Organization to step in over Korea’s import ban, insisting that its marine products are safe under international standards.

Korean lawmakers and analysts were critical of the Japanese government’s official response to 24 questions gathered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from relevant government branches regarding the Fukushima situation. The questions were sent to Japan on Aug. 14.

They pointed out that Tokyo’s responses, which came on Aug. 28 and Sept. 12, lacked sincerity, courtesy and showed anemic effort. Some questions were unanswered and translations from the Japanese were lacking. The responses also included links to Web sites in lieu of explanations.

“There is a duty to put sincerity in responses between governments,” said Kwon Cheol-hyun, chairman of the Sejong Foundation and former ambassador to Japan. “Even when I was ambassador, I don’t recall getting any communications with links to Web sites … If Japan had consideration for the other nation, it would have spelled things out.”

“As much as it tries to ease the worries of its people, Japan also needs to try its best to understand and respond sincerely to the unease of its neighbors,” said a Northeast Asia expert and former senior foreign affairs official who requested anonymity.

“Even if one document is sent, it has to be supported with plenty of information and a translation,” he continued. “Aside from being diplomatic custom, this speaks of a problem in Japan’s mindset. Sending a simple URL really lacks sincerity. They need to look at the content of the URL and include a summary and explanation.”

“When the Chernobyl nuclear crisis occurred, Japan made a big fuss and handed out masks even though they were thousands of kilometers away from the accident, so how can they respond to the questions of a country right next to it like this? This is a situation that our government can lodge a complaint about.”

Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, said that the poor response was “because of Japan’s efforts to convey a large volume of content in a short period of time.”

“It was a response really lacking courtesy,” Representative Kim Hye-jeong of the Nuclear Safety and Security Committee said. “It is difficult to comprehend that this is a response to questions raised by the Korean government.”

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, revealed yesterday that radiation levels in seawater outside one of the Fukushima reactors spiked this week to the highest level in two years. They rose to 1,200 becquerel per liter on Wednesday outside a damaged reactor, more than 13 times the level of the previous day.

On Wednesday, six workers at the plant were exposed to radioactive water after a worker accidently detached a pipe connected to a water treatment system.

Despite his previous assertion that the Fukushima situation is “under control,” especially ahead of Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Olympic Games, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appealed for international assistance in containing the crisis on Sunday at a science conference in Kyoto.



BY KANG IN-SIK, SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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