Foreign ministry hit for lukewarm stance over Japan’s radioactive water discharge plan

28-Oct-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Lawmakers from ruling and opposition parties have hit the foreign ministry for taking a lukewarm stance over Japan’s plan to discharge radioactive water from the disabled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean.

During the National Assembly Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee’s audit of the ministry, Monday, lawmakers urged the ministry to come up swiftly with countermeasures because Korea may also be directly affected by the contaminated water, which could threaten Koreans’ health and safety.

Rep. Lee Jae-jung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea showed an internal report of the ministry which stated that the method for dealing with the radioactive water is subject to Japan’s sovereignty.

“The ministry’s taskforce team to deal with the issue of contaminated water from Fukushima was formed in October 2018, but its first meeting was held in August 2019,” Lee said, adding that the ministry’s complacent and easygoing attitude and response toward the issue had been a fundamental problem.

Foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha said the water discharge would take place in Japan’s territory and thus is a sovereign decision of Japan in principle, but added that the ministry was well aware that many people here are concerned about the issue.

“It is important to understand a foreign partner’s position in the international community,” Kang said, adding that effective diplomacy is possible when abiding by principles and norms of the international community.

“Japan’s decision could affect Korean people’s safety, so we are continually asking Japan to share relevant information transparently.”

Another member of the Assembly’s foreign affairs committee, Rep. Lee Tae-kyu of the minor opposition People’s Party, also criticised the foreign ministry for not carrying out actual or concrete activities in seeking cooperation from other countries. Rep. Lee disclosed a ministry document that said no other countries have officially objected to Japan’s plan to discharge the radioactive water.

According to the document, some countries or international bodies such as the European Union and the United States said they would respect the Japanese government’s sovereign decision over the matter, but added that the decision should be dealt with according to communication and cooperation with the international community because it could affect the maritime environment. But no countries, not even nearby countries in the Pacific like China and Russia, have officially objected.

“We need to figure out why other neighbouring countries such as China and Russia have not expressed objection at the governmental level so we can deal with the issue in cooperation with international organisations,” Rep. Lee said.

Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon of the main opposition People Power Party said the Japanese government has been actively working to have its stance understood by other countries and international organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but the Korean government has not been doing so.

“Under international law, each country is obliged to prevent marine pollution caused by pollution on land,” Kim said. “Korea should file international litigation against Japan.”

Japanese media reported last week that Tokyo would soon make an official decision to discharge more than 1 million tonnes of highly contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean, and the release of the water could begin as early as 2022.


Category: Korea

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