August 21, 2023
WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was able to showcase growing international understanding for the planned ocean discharge of treated water from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, at the recent summit of the leaders of Japan, the United States and South Korea.
“In order to move forward with Fukushima’s reconstruction, this is an issue that cannot be put off,” Kishida said of the release plans after Friday’s trilateral summit with U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.
The Japanese prime minister was apparently heartened by the understanding expressed by Biden and Yoon during a series of meetings and a joint press conference at Camp David, Md., about the release of the water.
Asked at the joint press conference why he showed such understanding, Yoon did not hesitate to cite his trust in the International Atomic Energy Agency. There is strong public opinion against the discharge in South Korea, and Kishida did not bring up the treated water issue in his bilateral meeting with Yoon out of consideration for the South Korean president.
Initially, some in the Japanese government thought Yoon would not clarify his stance on the treated water issue. So Yoon making clear his respect for the IAEA report, which describes the release as being “consistent with relevant international safety standards,” raised hopes that this will provide significant momentum for the release.
During his meeting with Biden, Kishida expressed his gratitude for the United States’ support for the release of treated water. The two leaders exchanged opinions on measures to prevent the spread of misinformation regarding the discharge of the water.
China has repeatedly criticized the release plan, saying with little scientific evidence that Japan will carelessly discharge contaminated water. In South Korea, false information has been rife on the internet, including claims that radiation levels had exceeded standards.
At the bilateral meeting, Japan and the United States indicated their intention to work together on dealing with such misinformation.
“There is growing understanding in the United States and South Korea regarding the safety of treated water,” a Japanese senior government official said.