*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Friday, August 25, 2023
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building
China’s suspension of fishery product imports
Q: Please share your thoughts on China’s suspension of all imports of Japanese seafood that was announced yesterday.
Going forward, I would say you need to directly engage in dialogue with the Chinese side. Do you have an intention or plan to do so?
A: Japan can in no way accept the Chinese government’s decision. Based on scientific evidence, Japan is calling for the immediate repeal of this measure.
At the G20 Trade and Investment Ministerial Meeting, which was held yesterday, the Government of Japan called on the Chinese side to immediately repeal the import restriction measure that was announced on August 24.
I was unable to attend the G20 meeting because of my judgment that I ought to remain in Japan at this time. However, in the future, I will avail myself of various opportunities to strongly press this point upon the Chinese side.
In any case, this evening, data on water quality collected yesterday will be published. By publishing the data every day with a high level of transparency, we will show that we are acting based on scientific evidence. Therefore, the government as a whole will strongly call for immediate repeal of the groundless import restrictions.
ALPS treated water
Q: Let me ask you to comment on the discharge of treated water, which started yesterday.
A: When the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, we were in the opposition camp, and I was serving as director of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Economy, Trade and Industry Division and also as the head representative of the opposition parties on the Committee on Economy, Trade and Industry. Therefore, I am one of the persons who have been involved in dealing with the accident at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station right from the beginning.
Around 12 years after the accident, work has steadily proceeded toward decommissioning the plant, the completion of which is essential for the reconstruction of Fukushima. For the decommissioning to be completed, more than 1,000 tanks must be dismantled. Otherwise, delivering equipment necessary for the decommissioning work will become difficult. So the disposal of the ALPS treated water is an unavoidable challenge. Various discussions have so far been held, including by experts. Recently, through the process of repeated exchanges of opinions with fishermen, we have decided to start the discharge of treated water into the sea based on the judgment that we have obtained some degree of understanding. Just before making that decision, Tokyo Electric Power confirmed the safety of the discharge, and we also obtained a final confirmation from the Nuclear Regulation Authority. In addition, the IAEA independently conducted an inspection and confirmed the safety of the discharge. After all those procedures, we have started to discharge the treated water. This means we have taken a big step toward decommissioning the plant.
That said, as I suppose fishermen have strong concerns, we will domestically and internationally disseminate the data, which will be published starting this evening, with a high level of transparency, and also engage in various efforts to prevent reputational damage. While we have called on China to immediately repeal the import restriction measure as I mentioned earlier, we will further accelerate efforts to increase consumption and explore and expand sales channels.
More than 1,000 companies are already participating in the Sanriku/Joban Food Products Network and are increasing the volume of products from the Sanriku and Joban regions that are used at employee cafeterias. Moreover, I held talks with industry associations and Governor Murai, Vice-Chairman of the National Governors’ Association. Yesterday, I talked with Chairman Suzuki, Special Committee for Measures for Nuclear Power Generation of the National Governors’ Association, and requested cooperation for increasing consumption. I would like to make such requests to industry associations as well. I have already made such a request to the distribution industry. I intend to continue to work on such efforts, and at today’s ministerial meeting, I requested the ministers to exercise leadership in increasing consumption. I hope that ministries and agencies will make further efforts. METI will also make its own efforts.
In any case, we will assume full responsibility for supporting the fishermen in maintaining their livelihoods while attending to their concerns, as the prime minister has instructed us to do. We will do that while appropriately attending to their concerns. We will also steadily proceed with the decommissioning work and make sure to realize the reconstruction of Fukushima.