By Peter Hoskins
The US military in Japan has started to bulk buy the country’s seafood in response to a Chinese import ban after the release of treated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant.
The US ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said Washington may also look into other ways to help counter China’s ban.
He described it as part of Beijing’s “economic wars”.
China, which was the biggest buyer of Japanese seafood, said it barred imports due to safety fears.
Last year Japan exported more than 100,000 tons of scallops to China. The first purchase under the US scheme is a fraction of that – just under a metric ton of the shellfish.
Mr Emanuel told the Reuters news agency it is the start of long-term contract that will extend over time to all types of seafood.
The purchases will be used to feed military personnel and be sold in shops and restaurants on military bases in Japan.
“It’s going to be a long-term contract between the US armed forces and the fisheries and co-ops here,” Mr Emanuel said.
“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 added.
The US military had not previously bought Japanese seafood in Japan and Washington may also look at its fish imports from Japan and China, Mr Emanuel said.
In response to Mr Emanuel’s comments, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a news conference on Monday: “the responsibility of diplomats is to promote friendship between countries rather than smearing other countries and stirring up trouble”.
In recent months, Mr Emanuel has spoken out about China on various issues including its economic policies and treatment of foreign businesses.
His comments come as several top US officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have visited Beijing in an effort to ease tensions between the world’s two biggest economies.
More than a million tonnes of treated waste water accumulated at the Fukushima nuclear plant after it was severely damaged in a 2011 tsunami.
The Chinese import ban came despite Japan saying the water was safe, and many scientists agreeing. The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog also approved the plan.
Tokyo has also stressed that similar releases of waste water are common from other nuclear power plants in China and France.
Japan makes regular reports to show that the seawater near Fukushima is showing no detectable levels of radioactivity.
On Sunday, trade ministers from the Group of Seven (G7), an organisation of the world’s largest so-called “advanced” economies, called for the immediate repeal of bans on Japanese food.
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