‘Don’t politicize Japanese food import issue’: official

Taipei, A Taiwan official on Tuesday urged all sides not to politicize food safety after Japan's top envoy to Taiwan last week raised concerns over an opposition party-initiated referendum to prevent the government lifting an import ban on food from radiation-affected areas of Japan.

The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) held an event on July 24 to promote a referendum bid it initiated to prevent the government lifting a ban on the import of food products from five radiation-affected prefectures in Japan -- Gunma, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba -- following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in 2011.

Following the KMT event, Japan's top envoy to Taiwan Mikio Numata (????) issued an open letter to the public, calling the KMT's move "deeply disappointing," while urging Taiwan to lift the ban that he said was imposed "without any scientific basis." Failure to do so could harm the friendly relationship between Japan and Taiwan, he added.

Asked to comment, Taiwan-Japan Relations Association (TJRA) Secretary-General Chang Shu-ling (???), said as a democratic country governed by the rule of law, the government has no right to stop people exercising their civil right to initiate a referendum.

She reiterated that the government will do everything possible to safeguard public health, adding that the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which is in charge of food safety, will make the final decision on whether to lift the ban.

Chang called on all sides to remain clam and rational as food safety is a highly specialized issue and should not be politicized in ways that adversely impact Taiwan's trade and economic relations with other countries.

The foreign ministry-funded TJRA handles Taiwan-Japan relations in the absence of official diplomatic ties.

Since returning to power in May 2016, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration has said it is considering lifting the ban but has run into heavy opposition. No progress has been made on the issue since then.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel