Japan welcomes WTO ruling on South Korea Fukushima food row

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government would work to reverse similar restrictions put in place by other countries on the import of Japanese food after the nuclear disaster.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government would work to reverse similar restrictions put in place by other countries on the import of Japanese food after the nuclear disaster.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP, REUTERS) - Japan on Friday (Feb 23) welcomed a World Trade Organisation ruling that called for South Korea to lift an import ban on Japanese seafood, imposed after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

On Thursday (Feb 22), the WTO ruled on Tokyo's complaint against Seoul filed in 2015, concluding that South Korea's restrictions are inconsistent with the rules of the world's trade watchdog.

"Japan welcomes the WTO's panel report, which reflected our position," top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

"We request South Korea to correct swiftly and with sincerity its import restriction measures that were recognised as violating the WTO rules," Suga said.

He added that the government would work to reverse similar restrictions put in place by other countries on the import of Japanese food after the nuclear disaster.

South Korea's government said on Friday it will appeal the ruling and will keep the ban in place.

In May 2015, Japan took its food row with Seoul to the WTO and requested consultations, in the first step under the global body's dispute settlement system.

But talks broke down between the Asian neighbours, leading Japan to seek a WTO ruling in August the same year.

Asked about reports that South Korea will appeal the Thursday ruling, Suga said that would be "extremely regrettable as the ruling was issued after two and a half years of process."

In addition to South Korea, China, Singapore, Macau, Russia, Taiwan, have partial import bans on fishery products from Japan, according to the fisheries agency.

The European Union, Indonesia, the Philippines, Hong Kong and some other countries require certificates of pre-export testing for radiation.

But the United States, Canada, Malaysia and Thailand, among others, have lifted restrictions and special requirements for imports of fishery products from Japan.

Last year, the European Parliament warned against easing checks imposed on food products imported from the Fukushima region in Japan in the wake of the 2011 disaster.