National / Politics

Abe asks Xi to lift Japan food import ban imposed due to Fukushima nuclear disaster


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to lift a ban on Japanese food imports introduced following the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant in 2011, a senior government official said.

Abe’s request came after the farm ministry said Thursday that Beijing has allowed rice produced in Niigata Prefecture, more than 200 km away from the crippled nuclear plant, to be shipped to China.

During their meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires, Abe, in welcoming Beijing’s latest decision, urged Xi to abolish the rest of the import restrictions based on scientific grounds as soon as possible, according to the Japanese official.

Xi responded to Abe by saying China will take appropriate action in keeping with scientific assessments, the official added.

Aside from Niigata rice, China maintains its ban on all other Japanese foods and feedstuff initially subject to the import restrictions, which include products from 10 of the 47 prefectures, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said.

Other countries, including South Korea and Singapore, restrict food imports due to radiation concerns, while Taiwan has decided to keep its ban on food imports from five prefectures intact following a referendum late last month.

The Fukushima disaster was triggered by the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan.

As for the East China Sea, Abe called on Xi to improve the unstable situation in the contested waters, emphasizing the importance of restarting talks over a 2008 bilateral accord on joint gas development there.

The Japanese and Chinese leaders also reaffirmed that U.N. sanctions — aimed at preventing North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles — should be fully implemented until Pyongyang achieves denuclearization as promised.

With trade tensions between the United States and China intensifying, Abe told Xi that China should take concrete measures to stem its alleged unfair business practices, such as stealing intellectual property and technology from other nations.

The prime minister expressed hope that Xi will have a “valuable discussion” with U.S. President Donald Trump at their planned meeting on the fringes of the G20 summit.

In October, Abe arrived in Beijing for the first official visit to China by a Japanese political leader in nearly seven years. Until late last year, Sino-Japanese relations had been at their worst level in decades over a territorial row in the East China Sea.

During his stay in Beijing, Abe held talks with Xi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, in which they agreed to accelerate new economic cooperation between Japan and China by changing the dynamics of bilateral relations “from competition to collaboration.”