Japan’s de facto ambassador to Taiwan voiced disappointment Wednesday over plans by Taipei to hold a referendum next month on whether to maintain a ban on food products from five Japanese prefectures, which was imposed in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“While the referendum … has not changed my feelings toward Taiwan, I cannot help but feel disappointed over such an unexpected outcome,” Mikio Numata, the head of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association’s office in Taipei, said in a statement.
Numata was referring to the Central Election Commission’s decision Tuesday to hold the referendum, initiated by the main opposition Nationalist Party (KMT), on Nov. 24 during local elections for mayors and councilors of municipalities, counties and townships.
In November 2016, the government was considering easing the ban on the food imports in question in two stages. But the KMT raised questions about the government’s ability to ensure the safety of the imported products. There were also revelations that banned food products had slipped into the country and been sold.
The government, led by the Democratic Progressive Party, then backed away from the plan to ease the ban.
Numata said Wednesday that all food products marketed in Japan, including those from Fukushima, are safe, pointing out that Taiwanese visitors to the country, numbering over 4.5 million last year, have consumed them.
He said that the decision on the ban should be based on scientific evidence and international standards, but that the issue has become a political tool and that the party that initiated the referendum is dragging the people of Taiwan into the mess.
“My job now is to prevent the KMT from using this issue to undermine the friendly relationship Japan and Taiwan have cultivated over the past years,” he said.
Numata urged Taiwanese voters to make a cool-headed decision at polling stations next month.