KMT lawmakers demand top envoy to Japan fly home to answer questions

05/04/2021 09:58 PM
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KMT lawmakers speak to reporters outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. CNA photo May 4, 2021
KMT lawmakers speak to reporters outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. CNA photo May 4, 2021

Taipei, May 4 (CNA) Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) legislators urged the government Tuesday to recall Taiwan's representative to Tokyo, Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), to answer questions in the Legislature about his controversial statement on Japan's disposal of nuclear waste water.

In a 30-minute closed-door meeting with Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), six KMT legislators, led by party caucus whip Fai Hrong-tai (費鴻泰), called on Hsieh to appear before the Legislature on May 24 to explain his statement that "Taiwan's nuclear plants also dumped nuclear wastewater into the ocean."

According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) statement issued after the meeting, Wu told the KMT lawmakers that his ministry has already wired the Legislative Yuan's session notice for Hsieh to attend to TECO Japan.

"However, after a thorough assessment, MOFA believes that it would be best for Hsieh to stay in Tokyo to personally oversee the office's COVID-19 prevention efforts," MOFA said, adding that an office worker recently tested positive for the coronavirus.

The ministry also said that Hsieh's "diplomatic work" in Japan would be affected by a lengthy absence as he would have to undergo 14-days of home quarantine plus 7 days of self-health management in Taiwan and another 14-days of quarantine in Japan.

Fai told reporters after the meeting that MOFA used "all manner of excuses" to justify Hsieh not returning from Japan.

Hsieh should apologize to the nation for his words, Fai said, adding that the KMT caucus will continue to call for him to appear at the Legislative Yuan.

Hsieh posted the controversial statement on Facebook twice, once before Tokyo announced on April 13 its plans to release more than 1.25 million tons of treated nuclear wastewater containing tritium from the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean in around two years, and the other after Japan announced the decision.

Based on an online survey conducted by Yahoo, roughly 90 percent of Taiwanese consider the statements to be improper. The KMT branded Hsieh a "traitor" for "siding with Japan and undermining Taiwan's national dignity."

The KMT has argued that the nuclear wastewater released by Taiwan's nuclear plant, produced under normal cooling operations, is completely different to that at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which came into direct contact with damaged nuclear reactors.

The opposition legislators first summoned Hsieh on April 23 for a legislative session six days later, but he did not return at that time due to the lack of time to prepare owing to COVID-19-related protocols.

Some legislators have suggested Hsieh should be questioned through videoconferencing, but the KMT caucus rejected that option, expressing concern that the representative to Japan could manipulate the video signal or computer equipment to evade questions.

(By Chung Yu-chen and Emerson Lim)

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