South Korea’s Environment Ministry said Thursday it will tighten radiation checks on coal ash imports from Japan because they might be contaminated. Coal ash, a byproduct from thermal power plants, can be used to make cement.

The move is seen as Seoul’s first counterattack after Tokyo placed stricter controls on exports to South Korea.

South Korean authorities currently check importers’ radiation inspection records quarterly. They will now require blanket testing, including radiation measurements and sampling.

If problems are found, South Korea will take necessary measures, the ministry said.

There are about 400 shipments of Japanese coal ash to South Korea annually. Last year, South Korea imported 1.26 million tons of Japanese coal ash, valued at around $44 million.

More than 90 percent of South Korea’s coal ash imports came from Japan between 2009 and June 2019, according to a South Korean lawmaker.

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