Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Press Secretary YOSHIDA Tomoyuki

Wednesday, September 22, 2021, 3:45 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening Remarks

Lifting and Relaxation of Import Restrictions on Japanese Food Products by the United States and the EU

Mr. YOSHIDA Tomoyuki, Press Secretary: First, I have a comment to make on something that the Government of Japan welcomes.

It is about the lifting of import restrictions on Japanese food products due to radioactive substances by the Government of the United States, and the relaxation of import restrictions by the EU.

As already stated, on September 22, early this morning Japan time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that based on scientific grounds, the United States lifted all import restrictions on Japanese food products due to radioactive substances. Due to the lifting of the restrictions, it is now possible to export to the United States rice from Fukushima Prefecture, as well as items such as wild mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms grown on raw wood from various prefectures, which was not possible before.

We have taken various opportunities to urge the United States to lift the import restrictions, including summit meetings. The relevant authorities of Japan and the United States had a series of consultations based on scientific grounds, which has led to the decision to lift the import restrictions.

Additionally, the EU decided to revise its import restrictions on Japanese food products due to radioactive substances. On Monday, September 20 local time, the EU announced that the import restrictions will be relaxed from October 10. Due to this revision, the restrictions have been greatly relaxed as the number of items subject to inspection certificates for radioactive substances has decreased.

For example, for cultivated mushroom varieties, it was necessary until now to have an inspection certificate for radioactive substances and a production area certificate issued in order to import the mushrooms to the EU, but that is no longer necessary. Japan has repeatedly urged the EU on this matter at the summit level, and from the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of course, as well as from Foreign Minister Motegi. We believe that the EU relaxing its restrictions was due to Japan’s effort and explanations on scientific grounds.

The Government of Japan welcomes the lifting and relaxation of restrictions respectively by the United States and the EU as it would support the reconstruction of the affected areas as we mark a decade since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and as a way of showing Japan’s stance to the international community. That is all from me.

Lifting and Relaxation of Import Restrictions on Japanese Food Products by the United States and the EU

NHK, Watanabe: Related to what you have stated just now in your opening remarks, there are still countries that continue to impose import restrictions on Japanese food products and other such items. When Japan reaches the stage of releasing the treated water from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the ocean, I believe the problem of reputational damage will newly emerge on products such as marine products. What are your current thoughts on how the Government of Japan will respond and what explanations will you provide to the world?

Press Secretary Yoshida: As you have stated in your question, although the United States and the EU respectively lifted and relaxed their import restrictions, there are 14 countries and regions that continue to impose import restrictions. There were originally 55 such countries and regions, but the number has decreased to 14 due to Japan’s repeated effort, explanations, and the like. Those 14 countries and regions of course include countries and regions that neighbor Japan.

I believe that the United States reached the decision to lift its import restrictions because they have determined that there were no scientific grounds for continuing the restrictions. We would like various countries and regions to consider based on such decisions. The Government of Japan will continue to ensure transparency, provide scientific explanations, and persistently reach out as an issue of utmost priority.

You also asked about the treated water. Is that correct?

NHK, Watanabe: When the treated water is released into the ocean and people look critically at marine products, I believe that the gaining of understanding would be an issue. What is your view?

Press Secretary Yoshida: In regard to the water treated by the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, as I have been stating on various occasions, the Government of Japan recognizes that it is important to ensure objectivity, transparency, and safety. We have taken various opportunities to provide explanations to ensure high transparency for various countries and the international community.

We believe that this issue and the previously mentioned import restrictions issue are not something that should be directly connected. We already announced the basic policy for handling the treated water in April. We firstly asked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an organization specializing in the atomic energy field, for its view about releasing the treated water into the ocean, and received the IAEA’s assessment that it is practically feasible and in line with international practices.

Furthermore, this month, the Deputy Director General serving as the head of the IAEA’s review mission visited Japan. During her visit, this matter was discussed and explained. We will continue to cooperate with the IAEA and receive the review mission made up of specialists in the IAEA as wells as review on safety issues and restriction issues. Through such measures, we would like to provide explanations in an appropriate manner to ensure objectivity and transparency to the international community.

In any event, we still have over one year until the treated water would be released into the ocean. The actual decision on the release would be made in the future. Until then, we will work to dispel rumors such as what you mentioned by providing explanations to the international community that we will take measures to assess potential effects on the ocean environment, as well as take safe and transparent measures by incorporating objective third-party assessments from the monitoring and review conducted by the IAEA, which I mentioned earlier.

Joint Economic Activities on the Four Northern Islands

NHK, Watanabe: I would like to ask about different issue. Yesterday, there was an announcement regarding the Japan-Russia joint economic activities that online meeting was held regarding the issue of garbage disposal. As people from Japan and Russia cannot meet in person due to the novel coronavirus, there have been many announcements that online discussions on the joint economic activities were conducted, but no specific progress has been made in each meeting. But the meetings are continuing. At this point, although discussions have not reached the point where any announcement can be made, and legal issues have not been resolved, meetings are held repeatedly. I am not quite sure what the aim is, and what discussions are held now. I cannot help but doubt whether Japan and Russia are really moving toward concluding a peace treaty. What kind of joint economic activities are being strived for, what kind of goal if being aimed for, and where are we at with these two points?

Press Secretary Yoshida: In relation to the issue between Japan and Russia and the joint economic activities on the Four Northern Islands, which you have mentioned in your question, specific areas are still being considered at the practical and administrative level based on the summit level agreement.

As you pointed out, due to the current novel coronavirus crisis, it is extremely difficult to hold intensive discussions with participation by a large number of people. Amidst this circumstance, online discussions including related specialists are being held between Japan and Russia to make sure that both countries are on the same page. Discussions are being continued in that form.

In regard to the joint economic activities, various discussions have been held until now. Of course, the major premise is that the joint economic activities would be promoted in a way that does not harm the basic positions of both sides, particularly Japan’s legal position on the Northern Territories. This is certainly not an easy thing, so of course, the details must be considered from many different angles.

The Government of Japan’s position is to continue the discussions, resolve the issue of the attribution based on our position and the various agreements between Japan and Russia thus far, and conclude a peace treaty. There is no change to the Government of Japan’s basic position and its importance.

Various consultations are underway, and announcements will be made whenever there is progress or results that the people of Japan should be informed of. However, at this point, we have not yet reached such a stage.

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