The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday downplayed reports that a ban on imports of food from areas affected by the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan would be discussed at the Taiwan-Japan Maritime Affairs Cooperation Dialogue Mechanism in Tokyo on Monday.
At a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) asked Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) whether the government has decided to reopen the door to Japanese food products that have been prohibited.
“There is a high level of public consensus on the issue, as it could jeopardize food safety,” Chiang said at the question-and-answer session. “If the issue is discussed at the bilateral meeting, or if it is not brought up, but the government has already made a secret promise to Tokyo to lift the ban, we will denounce such an action.”
Lee said the government agencies responsible for the issue are the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Council of Agriculture and neither is to send representative to the maritime meeting.
Chiang later asked Association of East Asian Relations Secretary-General Peter Tsai (蔡明耀) the same question.
“I am not able to answer the question because my association is not in charge of the issue, nor have I ever heard of such a decision,” said Tsai, who is to lead the Taiwanese delegation to the meeting.
There have been rumors that the government plans to lift the import ban, which was imposed on all food imports from five prefectures — Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba — after the nuclear catastrophe in March 2011.
Earlier yesterday, the ministry announced the date for the first round of the bilateral meetings.
“During the meeting, our side is to put forward issues including fisheries cooperation, emergency relief at sea and marine scientific research. Government agencies have been fully briefed on these issues,” the ministry said.
The ministry also said it would negotiate with Tokyo on the issue of Okinotori Atoll because of the government’s determination to safeguard the rights of Taiwanese fishermen.
The bilateral meeting was originally scheduled for July 28, but was postponed indefinitely two days beforehand to allow both sides more time to prepare for the wide variety of issues to be discussed.
The dialogue mechanism was established in May after relations between the two nations were strained by the Japan Coast Guard on April 25 seized a Taiwanese fishing boat operating about 150 nautical miles (277.8km) east-southeast of Okinotori Atoll.
The mechanism was created under the framework of the Taipei-based Association of East Asian Relations and its Japanese counterpart, the Interchange Association, Japan.
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