WTO upholds South Korean ban on Fukushima seafood
Seoul: The World Trade Organization has upheld South Korea's import ban on Japanese seafood from areas affected by the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, overturning a ruling by a lower panel last year that said Seoul was unfairly discriminating against Japanese products.
The decision is a setback for Japan, which has promoted Fukushima's recovery from the nuclear disaster and the safety of its agricultural and fisheries products ahead of next year's Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
South Korea on Friday welcomed the decision and said it will continue to block all fishery products from Fukushima and seven neighboring prefectures to ensure "only foods that are confirmed as safe are put on the table." Japan said the WTO ruling was "extremely regrettable" and vowed to get the import ban reversed through bilateral talks with South Korea. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono summoned South Korean Ambassador Lee Su-hoon to convey Tokyo's displeasure.
"The government will continue to maintain and strengthen our quarantine sovereignty and safety net," said Yoon Chang-yul, an official from South Korea's Office for Government Policy Coordination.
Yoon said the WTO ruling allows Seoul to maintain the ban "indefinitely" until it views the safety concerns as fully resolved. When asked about the possibility of the seafood ban fueling larger trade and diplomatic disputes, he said that "hopefully, that won't happen."