To counter China’s import ban following the release of treated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant, the US military in Japan has initiated a program to purchase Japanese seafood in bulk.

This move is seen as a response to what the US ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, describes as China’s “economic warfare.” China, previously the largest consumer of Japanese seafood, implemented the ban citing safety concerns.

Last year, Japan exported over 100,000 tons of scallops to China. In contrast, the initial purchase through the US program is relatively modest, comprising just under a metric ton of shellfish.

However, according to Mr. Emanuel, this marks the beginning of a long-term contract that will gradually encompass various seafood types.

The acquired seafood will serve the dual purpose of providing sustenance to military personnel and being made available for sale in shops and restaurants on US military bases in Japan.

Mr. Emanuel underscored that this initiative intends to strengthen collaboration between the US armed forces and Japanese fisheries and cooperatives.

He emphasized the effectiveness of supporting the affected country or industry to counteract China’s economic pressure, asserting that it is the best strategy in such circumstances.

It’s noteworthy that this is the first time the US military has procured Japanese seafood directly in Japan. Additionally, Washington is contemplating reviewing its fish imports from both Japan and China, according to Mr. Emanuel.

In response to Mr. Emanuel’s statements, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, emphasized that the role of diplomats should be to foster friendly relations between nations, rather than engaging in negative portrayals of other countries and stirring up conflicts.

Mr. Emanuel has been vocal on various issues related to China, including its economic policies and treatment of foreign businesses. His comments come as part of broader efforts by high-ranking US officials, such as Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to improve relations between the two largest global economies.

The background to this situation is the presence of more than a million tonnes of treated wastewater at the Fukushima nuclear plant, stemming from severe damage inflicted during a tsunami in 2011.

Despite Japan asserting the safety of the water and receiving approval from the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the Chinese import ban persisted.

Japan has also highlighted that other nuclear power plants in China and France release similar waste water into the sea, with Tokyo providing regular reports indicating undetectable levels of radioactivity in the seawater near Fukushima.

Notably, trade ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) recently called for the immediate lifting of bans on Japanese food. G7 comprises the world’s largest “advanced” economies.

Last Updated: 31 October 2023