The US government has agreed to purchase Japanese seafood for military use in order to mitigate the economic consequences of Japan’s decision to release radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean. The American armed forces will sign a long-term contract with Japanese seafood suppliers, serving Japanese fish, scallops, and other products on US Navy ships and stocking them in commissaries and mess halls at 17 American military bases in the region. This move is intended to counter China’s ban on seafood imports from Japan.
While the purchase of Japanese seafood by the US military cannot completely compensate for Japan’s loss of the Chinese market, US ambassador to Tokyo Rahm Emmanuel stated that it would send a message about Beijing’s “economic coercion.” He emphasized that providing aid and assistance to the targeted country or industry has been an effective strategy in wearing out China’s economic coercion.
China, previously the largest importer of Japanese fish, banned all seafood imports from Japan in August due to concerns over possible radioactive contamination. The Chinese government criticized Japan’s decision to release Fukushima wastewater into the Pacific Ocean as “extremely selfish and irresponsible.” Following China’s ban, Russia also suspended its imports of Japanese seafood.
The Japanese government has consistently defended its wastewater discharges as safe, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supports the plan. However, China’s Foreign Ministry responded to the IAEA’s claims by suggesting that those who believe the releases are safe should “drink or swim in” Fukushima wastewater themselves. Emmanuel has openly criticized Chinese leaders on social media and argued that Beijing lacks scientific basis for raising concerns over the Fukushima discharges. He also highlighted the inconsistency in China’s actions, as it bans imports of seafood harvested by Japanese fishermen while still allowing sales of fish caught by Chinese crews in Japanese waters.
In response to Emmanuel’s comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin stated that the responsibility of diplomats is to promote friendship between countries rather than smear other countries and cause trouble.
Reuters reported that the initial purchase under the US military’s new seafood deal with Japan will be less than one metric ton of scallops. In contrast, Japan exported over 100,000 metric tons of scallops to China last year.
The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster occurred in 2011 when a tsunami triggered by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake flooded the plant, causing its three reactors to melt down. It is considered the world’s worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl explosion in 1986.