US military will buy seafood from Japan to offset Chinese ban

The U.S. has reportedly begun buying Japanese seafood for its military stationed there to offset the impact of China’s ban on seafood, according to a new report from Reuters.

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said there will be a long-term contract between the U.S. armed forces and the fisheries and co-ops in Japan.

Emanuel pushed for more ways Washington could help offset China’s ban on seafood, which was put in place in August in response to the the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s release of diluted and treated radioactive wastewater back into the Pacific Ocean.

Japan’s move to release the wastewater came under fire from Chinese leaders at the time, including China’s Foreign Ministry, who said China “firmly opposes and strongly condemns it” and that Japan disregarded the criticism of the international community.

“The best way we have proven in all the instances to kind of wear out China’s economic coercion is come to the aid and assistance of the targeted country or industry,” Emanuel told Reuters.

Pressed on Emanuel’s comments during a press conference Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin reiterated China’s opposition to Japan’s discharge and defended the ban as a “precautionary measure.”

“The precautionary measures taken by China and some other countries in response to Japan’s move to protect food safety and people’s health are entirely legitimate, reasonable and necessary,” Wenbin said Monday.

“As for the remarks of the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, it needs to be pointed out that the duty of diplomats is to deepen friendship between countries, rather than smear other countries and sow discords,” Wenbin continued.

Emanuel told Reuters the U.S.’s first purchase in the arrangement is just under a metric ton of scallops, a small portion of the more than 100,000 tons of scallops Japan exported to China last year.

The seafood will be given to soldiers in messes and vessels and sold in shops and restaurants on military bases, Emanuel reportedly said, adding that the types of seafood will expand over time. The U.S. military had not purchased local seafood in Japan prior to the deal, according to Emanuel.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida defended the controversial plan in August and argued it is an essential step in plant decommissioning and in the recovery process for Fukushima following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the plant’s cooling systems, melted three reactors and contaminated the cooling water.

The contained water was being stored in about 1,000 tanks, which were expected to reach capacity by early 2024. The tanks also risked leakage if the water was not removed.

While drawing criticism from some world leaders, Japan’s plan is supported by the scientific community, which has claimed watching the plan closely will deem it safe.

At the time of the release, the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, pledged to help local businesses impacted by the bans and vowed to work to have the ban dropped by providing scientific explanations to China. That ban, however, remains in place more than two months later.

The Hill reached out to China and Japan’s U.S. embassies for comment.

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