• Kyodo

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Japan will directly update companies abroad, including importers of Japanese products and shipping agents, on the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in a bid to ease import restrictions overseas, government officials said.

Japanese diplomatic missions will hold briefings for firms in London, Beijing and Shanghai by the end of this month on the Fukushima emergency and its impact on the safety of Japanese farm and industrial products, the officials said.

Tokyo also plans to organize similar events in the United States, Hong Kong and European countries at a later date. So far, about 60 countries and regions have introduced import restrictions on Japanese products over radiation contamination fears, they said.

In Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese Commerce Ministry representative Yao Jian defended the country’s de facto ban on all food and farm products from Japan over radiation concerns, saying the embargo designed to ensure product safety is “appropriate” as many other nations have introduced similar steps.

China has officially banned food and agricultural imports from Fukushima, Tokyo and 10 other prefectures, and requires importers to present documents issued by the Japanese government such as certificates for radioactivity-free inspection and for places of origin.

At present no central government organ issues such documents, leading to the effective halt of all Japan-made food and farm imports. In 2010, China was the fourth-largest importer of Japanese farm and fishery products after Hong Kong, the United States and Taiwan, buying items worth about ¥55.5 billion.

Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto told a press conference in Tokyo that Japan hopes to gain China’s acceptance by fully disclosing data on radioactive substances emitted from the Fukushima plant and by explaining screening measures to prevent contaminated items from being distributed in the markets.

“For both Japan and China, it is not desirable that their economic activities shrink” due to declines in trade caused by the nuclear crisis, Matsumoto said. “We have to make sure our own (screening) steps are sufficient.”

Japan aims to redouble its efforts to disseminate correct information on the Fukushima accident by reaching out to companies in addition to better informing other countries’ government officials, intellectuals and media representatives.

On March 31, the government briefed about 200 foreign companies based in Tokyo on the effects of the Fukushima crisis, which is now rated at the same level as the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

For foreign diplomats and media in Tokyo, the government has been giving daily briefings to relay the latest information.

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