Tokyo asks for ruling on Seoul import ban

Kyodo

The Japanese government on Thursday asked the World Trade Organization to set up a panel to rule over South Korea’s import ban on Japanese fishery products following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis that Tokyo says violates international trade rules.

The move comes after the two countries failed to resolve the issue through consultations that took place under WTO procedures. Tokyo is claiming the South Korean ban has no scientific grounds, while Seoul is arguing that its trade restrictions are legitimate steps to ensure food safety for its people amid radioactive water leakages from the crippled power plant.

Japan has decided to have the dispute settlement panel established as South Korea shows “no prospect of its restrictions being lifted,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference earlier Thursday before Tokyo formally made the request to the WTO.

It is the first time Japan has sought installation of a panel over import restrictions in the wake of the nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant and the subsequent radiation leakage into the environment. The panel will likely be established in September.

Following the nuclear disaster at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant, triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, South Korea banned imports of 50 kinds of marine products from Fukushima Prefecture and seven other nearby prefectures, due to fears of radiation contamination.

In September 2013, Seoul expanded the restrictions to ban all fishery products from the eight prefectures.