Oct 30, 2023 - World

U.S. military bulk buying Japan's seafood to counter China import ban

Fishery workers sort out seafood caught in offshore trawl fishing in Soma City, Fukushima prefecture on Sept. 1. Photo: STR/JIJI Press/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. military is bulk buying Japanese seafood to help offset China's import ban of the products after Japan began releasing treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in August.

Why it matters: The new initiative aims to help soften the impact of China's ban, which is part of its "economic wars," said Rahm Emanuel, U.S. ambassador to Japan, in a Reuters interview published Monday.

  • "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," he said.
  • The initiative marks the start of a "long-term contract" between U.S. armed forces and Japan's local fisheries and co-ops, Emanuel said.

The other side: Beijing bristled at Emanuel's remarks, Reuters reported.

  • "The responsibility of diplomats is to promote friendship between countries rather than smearing other countries and stirring up trouble," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, per Reuters.

Catch up quick: In August, Japan began releasing more than 1 million metric tons of treated radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean.

  • Japan announced plans to release the treated water into the Pacific Ocean in 2021, a decade after a massive earthquake and tsunami wrecked the plant and caused a nuclear disaster.
  • Releasing the treated water is considered a key step to decommissioning the the Fukushima plant, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has deemed the plan safe.

Details: The seafood bought by the U.S. military will be used to feed soldiers in military facilities and sold in shops and restaurants on military bases, Emanuel said.

  • The first purchase was about a metric ton of scallops, a fraction of the 100,000 tons of scallops China imported from Japan last year, per Reuters.
  • The purchases will gradually grow to include all kinds of seafood, Emanuel told Reuters.
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