China determined to protect national interests amid Fukushima water discharge

Wang Wenbin

28th September 2023 – (Hong Kong) In response to media reports regarding China’s radiation monitoring of the marine environment in its jurisdictional waters, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin stated at a press briefing on Wednesday that the Chinese government possesses the capability and determination to take all necessary measures to safeguard national interests, public welfare, and the sustainable growth of the oceanic fishing sector.

Wang emphasised that monitoring radiation levels in the ocean, implementing emergency measures for aquatic imports from Japan, and conducting risk monitoring of nuclear contamination in aquatic products are all legitimate and reasonable steps in response to Japan’s discharge of nuclear-contaminated water.

Highlighting the long-term nature of the discharge, Wang expressed concerns about whether the treated contaminated water would meet safety standards. Japan has already commenced the dumping of Fukushima’s radioactive water, with reports suggesting that an additional 7,800 tons could be released by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) later this month.

The discharge of Fukushima’s radioactive water is a significant nuclear safety issue, as it involves the unprecedented artificial release of contaminated water from a nuclear incident into the sea. Liu Jing, vice chairman of the China Atomic Energy Authority, addressed the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency, stressing the uncertainty surrounding the cumulative effects caused by the release of large quantities of radionuclides into the ocean.

To ensure accurate monitoring and evidence collection, particularly regarding changes in the levels of radioactive materials affecting the oceans, Zhang Yanqiang, a professor specialising in law of the sea studies at Dalian Maritime University, emphasized the importance of independent monitoring. Zhang noted that all data submitted so far had been collected by Japan itself. He suggested that China could explore further international cooperation with Pacific Island countries to establish joint monitoring efforts.

Pacific Island countries have already released a joint statement by foreign ministers expressing concerns over Japan’s discharge of nuclear-contaminated wastewater and emphasizing the need to develop regional scientific capacity and monitoring capabilities to assess the well-being of the Pacific maritime ecosystem.

Zhang also highlighted the possibility of pursuing legal action if real damage occurs as a result of the discharge.

During the general debate of the UN General Assembly on September 22, Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, called on Japan to explore alternative options for addressing the issue and immediately cease discharging the nuclear-contaminated wastewater into the Pacific Ocean. Sogavare emphasised that if the wastewater is indeed safe, it should be stored in Japan.

In a related development, Russia is reportedly considering imposing a ban on Japanese seafood imports in response to the situation, as per Reuters’ report on Wednesday.