OPINION: KMT Fukushima Food Ban Drives a Wedge Between Taiwan & Japan

If the food ban referendum was a strategic maneuver by the KMT, it seems to be working as intended.

The News Lens
Date: 2018/12/18
By Brian Hioe

Credit: Yomiuri Shimbun via AP

It is unsurprising that Taiwan may not be admitted to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) because of the referendum vote against food imports from Fukushima-affected areas held in late November concurrent with nine-in-one elections. Namely, the issue of food imports is one upon which Taiwan has long been pushed around by larger, more powerful countries, who dangle the threat of being denied admittance to international free trade agreements if Taiwan does not allow food imports.

The administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has in the past made allowing food imports from Fukushima-affected areas a condition for stronger diplomatic relations with Japan. This would be part of a more general effort by the Abe administration to promote the prefecture of Fukushima as safe, with concerns that lingering radiation may still cause harmful effects in the region after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The Abe administration has thus attempted to promote food exports from the area, as well as to encourage tourism to the area.

Credit: Reuters / Toru HanaiAn anti-nuclear protester holds a placard depicting Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a rally in front of the parliament building in Tokyo on Mar. 11, 2017, the six-year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster.
Concerns over whether food from Fukushima is safe are valid, seeing as this is an issue of contention in Japan itself. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is seen as being closely tied to the Japanese nuclear industry, with an unusual willingness to push for nuclear energy in spite of outbreaks of large-scale public protest. There have also been pervasive concerns and allegations that the LDP has been unwilling to provide accurate nuclear assessments for the Fukushima area, or sought to mislead through official statistics.

After the results of the referendum in late November, in which 7,791,856 voted against allowing food imports from Fukushima, the Japanese government initially expressed understanding regarding the results of the referendum, suggesting that not allowing food imports from Fukushima would not be an obstacle for Japan-Taiwan relations going forward. However, this appears to have not entirely been the truth.    [FULL  STORY]

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