SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s president ordered officials on Wednesday to explore petitioning an international court over Japan’s decision to release contaminated water from its wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, amid protests by fisheries and environmental groups.
According to plans unveiled by Japan on Tuesday, the release of more than 1 million tonnes of contaminated water into the sea from the plant crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 will start in about two years after filtering it to remove harmful isotopes.
The plan drew immediate opposition from its neighbours South Korea, China and Taiwan.
South Korea strongly protested against the decision, summoning Koichi Aiboshi, Tokyo’s ambassador in Seoul, and convening an intra-agency emergency meeting to craft its response.
President Moon Jae-in said officials should look into ways to refer Japan’s move to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, including filing for an injunction, his spokesman Kang Min-seok told a briefing.
Moon also expressed concerns about Japan’s plans as Aiboshi presented his credentials. Japan’s ambassador arrived in South Korea in February to take up his post.
“I cannot but say that there are many concerns here about the decision as a country that is geologically closest and shares the sea with Japan,” Moon said, asking Aiboshi to convey such worries to Tokyo, according to Kang.
South Korea’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying it had raised similar concerns with Washington, after the State Department said Japan’s decision was “transparent” and in line with global safety standards. [L4N2M61SG]
The ministry also said it shared “strong regret and serious concerns” about the water’s planned release at a video conference on Wednesday with Chinese officials on maritime issues.
A series of protests against the move by politicians, local officials, fishermen and environmental activists took place in South Korea on Wednesday, including in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul and consulates in the port city of Busan and on Jeju island.
A coalition of 25 fisheries organisations staged a rally and delivered a written protest to the embassy, urging Tokyo to revoke the decision and Seoul to ban imports of Japanese seafood.
“Our industry is on course to suffer annihilating damage, just with people’s concerns about a possible radioactive contamination of marine products,” it said in a statement.
The progressive minor opposition Justice Party and some 30 anti-nuclear and environmental groups called Japan’s move “nuclear terrorism,” and said they sent the Japanese embassy a list of signatures of more than 64,000 people opposed to the move collected from 86 countries since February.
The Chinese foreign ministry warned on Wednesday that Japan’s decision will set a precedent for disposal of waste water.
“The ocean is not Japan’s rubbish bin, the Pacific Ocean is not Japan’s sewers,” said Zhao Lijian, a spokesman at the Chinese foreign ministry, at a regular media briefing in Beijing.
“Japan should not let the whole world pay for how it manages its nuclear waste water.”
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; additional reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Raju Gopalakrishnan, Giles Elgood & Simon Cameron-Moore)