Japan on Wednesday called for the removal of import bans on its marine products imposed by China and Russia at a World Trade Organization committee meeting to discuss potential trade concerns, according to a source in Geneva.
In addition to raising questions on the import restrictions at meetings regarding WTO rules, Japan may also decide to file a complaint to the global trade body as Tokyo views the import restrictions, introduced after the release of treated radioactive water from the disaster-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant, as lacking scientific grounds.
During the session of the Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, Japanese officials insisted that the import bans violate a WTO agreement that allows members to take sanitary measures necessary for the protection of human health as long as they are based on scientific principles.
The United States, the European Union, Australia and Britain were among the parties that supported Japan's position, according to the source.
China insisted that Japan stop the discharge, saying that the blanket ban on Japanese seafood imports aims to protect the lives and health of Chinese consumers and is in line with domestic laws as well as the WTO agreement on the application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures.
Russia, meanwhile, criticized the Japanese government saying that the process toward the water release lacked transparency.
Beijing imposed restrictions immediately after Japan started discharging the wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi plant into the Pacific Ocean in late August, and Russia soon followed suit.
Japan plans to continue to discharge the treated wastewater -- which has been accumulating at the premises of the nuclear complex as work continues to decommission reactors that suffered fuel meltdowns in the 2011 nuclear accident -- for about 30 years.
While radioactive tritium cannot be removed in the water treatment process, the government has asserted the safety of the water discharge, by diluting the water to reduce the tritium levels to less than one-40th of the concentration permitted under national safety standards before it is released into the sea.
During the WTO committee meeting, Japanese officials also said that nuclear power facilities around the world release more tritium into the environment than the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
So far, no abnormal levels of tritium and other radioactive materials have been detected around the plant, according to environmental monitoring carried out by Japanese authorities, the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The IAEA said in a report released in July that the water discharge plan aligned with global safety standards and would have a "negligible" impact on people and the environment.