• Kyodo

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Japanese agriculture minister Yoshimasa Hayashi suggested Tuesday the government may request the World Trade Organization set up a dispute settlement panel as early as next month over South Korea’s import restrictions on Japanese fishery products.

South Korea issued the ban following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, which resulted in massive radiation leakage from the crippled No. 1 nuclear plant.

Initially banning imports of 50 kinds of marine products from Fukushima Prefecture and seven other nearby prefectures, in September 2013 Seoul expanded the restrictions to bar all fishery products from the eight regions.

Tokyo and Seoul held discussions last month under a dispute settlement framework of the WTO, but remained divided over the issue. As no deal was reached within a 60-day window for consultations through Monday, Japan can now ask for the panel to be established.

Hayashi said he did not deny the possibility of further discussions, but added that Japan needed to “prepare with an eye to requesting the establishment of the panel.”

“If we continue the same talks, we would end up with the same results,” he said.

Japan is calling for the removal of Seoul’s trade restrictive measures, saying they have no scientific justification, while South Korea is arguing that they are legitimate steps to ensure the safety of its people.

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