• JIJI, Kyodo

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Japan on Sunday asked Hong Kong to scrap import restrictions on Japanese agricultural, forestry and fisheries products introduced in response to the March 2011 core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Visiting Foreign Minister Taro Kono made the request at a meeting with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

The restrictions affect products made in Fukushima and four other surrounding prefectures.

“Relevant people in Hong Kong and Japan are working hard, so I expect things will go better,” Kono told reporters after the meeting.

Tokyo hopes to enhance economic ties with the territory by paving the way for Hong Kong to lift the import ban. The government also hopes such a decision by Hong Kong would lead China to relax similar restrictions. Beijing has banned food imports from 10 prefectures.

Kono also asked for Hong Kong’s cooperation in efforts to block ship-to-ship smuggling of oil to North Korean ships at sea, and he and Lam agreed to work together to keep maximum pressure on Pyongyang.

There were reports that a Hong Kong-flagged vessel is believed to have secretly transferred oil to a North Korean vessel in October in a ship-to-ship transfer prohibited by the U.N. Security Council. Hong Kong authorities could not confirm reports relating to the vessel, but said it strictly implements the U.N. sanctions.

Kono is the first Japanese foreign minister to visit Hong Kong since it was returned to China from British control in 1997, excluding trips for international conferences and other events there.

Lam said she will visit Japan in November.

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