MOSCOW — Russia on Monday followed its ally China in suspending all Japanese seafood imports over Tokyo’s release of wastewater from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
Japan has been sharply critical of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while Tokyo’s relations with Beijing — which has deepened ties with Moscow — have worsened.
Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia’s body responsible for regulating agriculture products, said it was “joining China’s provisional restrictive measures on the import of fish and seafood products from Japan as of October 16, 2023” as a “precautionary measure.”
It said the restrictions would remain in place “until the necessary exhaustive information to confirm the safety of seafood produce … is forthcoming.”
The Japanese government, which has called China’s ban political and unscientific, has yet to comment on Russia’s move.
In 2011, three reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear facility in northeastern Japan went into meltdown following a massive earthquake and tsunami that killed around 18,000 people.
Twelve years on, in August Japan began discharging treated contaminated water from the stricken plant into the Pacific Ocean.
China in response banned all Japanese seafood imports over the “selfish” and “irresponsible” release, accusing Japan of treating the sea like a “sewer.”
Japan insists the operation is safe, a view backed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
A team from the United Nations nuclear watchdog — including a Chinese scientist — is due to take water and fish samples from near the site this week.
Beijing says Tokyo has not proved the authenticity and accuracy of the nuclear wastewater data, nor that the ocean discharge of the water is harmless to the marine environment and human health.
Before the ban, China was Japan’s biggest market for fish, accounting for more than $500 million worth of exports in 2022.
The Japanese government has promised additional aid for the fishing sector, while seeking to boost exports to Europe and elsewhere.
Russia is much less important for Japan, accounting for around $1.7 million worth of marine product exports in 2022.
A lot more seafood — $1.04 billion — went the other way from Russia to Japan.
540 Olympic pools
But the suspension is symbolically important as China and Russia grow closer in the wake of the Ukraine war.
Japan’s close ally, the United States, has made a point of backing Tokyo, with the U.S. ambassador to Japan publicly eating fish from the Fukushima area.
Japan banned imports of Russian lumber and vodka after the Ukraine invasion, but marine products were exempted.
In all, Tokyo intends to discharge around 540 Olympic swimming pools’ worth of water — some 1.3 million cubic meters — from Fukushima in a gradual process lasting decades.
The water has been treated to remove radioactive substances — with the exception of tritium — and diluted with sea water.
Japan says tritium levels are within safe limits and below that released by nuclear power stations in their normal operation, including those in China.
The water release is aimed at making space to begin removing the highly dangerous radioactive fuel and rubble from the wrecked reactors.
Source : VOA News