Japan welcomes Taiwan's lifting of longstanding food ban
(Story updated at 5 p.m.)
Taipei, Feb. 8 (CNA) Japan's de facto ambassador to Taiwan has welcomed Taiwan's decision to end a decade-long ban on imports of food items from areas affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, and pledged that Tokyo will never sell Taipei products with health risks.
Hiroyasu Izumi, chief of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association (JTEA), which represents Tokyo's interests in Taipei in the absence of official diplomatic ties, said in a Facebook post Tuesday that he was gratified when he heard that Taiwan would adjust the 11-year-old ban.
"I know that the Japanese in those areas will be even more gratified over the news," he said, noting that the fishermen and farmers in the affected areas have hoped their products would be accepted by people in Taiwan.
He reiterated the Japanese government's stance that Japan will never sell Taiwan any food products with potential health risks.
Though travel between Taiwan and Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic has been limited, Izumi said, the import ban will at least give people in Taiwan the chance to enjoy Japanese peaches, strawberries, and other Made in Japan food and agricultural products.
The Japanese government welcomed the announcement, saying it marked a "large step toward the removal of restrictions," according to Japan's Kyodo News.
"We will be united in working to see the remaining restrictions removed," Kyodo News cited the Foreign Ministry as saying in a statement.
Meanwhile, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said the decision to lift the import ban was made after long discussions with Tokyo.
The two countries will soon sign a memorandum of understanding on the food safety issue to enhance information exchanges and deepen cooperation in this area, MOFA said in a statement.
Taiwan's government announced Tuesday that it will lift its ban on food imports from five prefectures in Japan -- Fukushima, where the disaster happened, and neighboring Gunma, Chiba, Ibaraki, and Tochigi -- though some restrictions will remain.
The ban was first imposed by Taiwan's Kuomintang (KMT) government for food safety reasons in late March 2011, about two weeks after several reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant melted down following a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
It further tightened restrictions in 2015 when products from those prefectures were discovered on store shelves in Taiwan, drawing strong criticism from the Japanese government, which had been pushing Taiwan to lift the ban.
Since regaining power in May 2016, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has considered lifting the ban, but has run into heavy domestic opposition.
In a national referendum in November 2018, 78 percent of people who cast ballots voted to maintain the ban.
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