OPINION / VIEWPOINT
US gives nod to Japan’s environmental terrorism
Published: Apr 15, 2021 03:44 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

The Joe Biden administration wants the world to know that it considers climate change to be an urgent global emergency, and that the US intends to lead the world to combating a changing environment.

"It's the number one issue facing humanity. And it's the number one issue for me… Climate change is the existential threat to humanity," Biden said in an October 2020 interview, before his election as US president. "Unchecked, it is going to actually bake this planet. This is not hyperbole. It's real. And we have a moral obligation."

Any observer would interpret those words as an unambiguous declaration of war on climate change by the new US President. So it would come as a surprise, then, to see how the US loudly applauded in response to the news that Japan, a major developed country and close US ally, announced plans to dump 250 million gallons of nuclear contaminated waste water into the Pacific Ocean - the equivalent volume to 500 Olympic sized swimming pools.

On Tuesday, Japan announced that in roughly two years time, it would begin to dump radioactive water from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster into the Pacific Ocean. 

Although the Japanese government has defended the plan, saying that the water from Fukushima is no longer radioactive, but rather treated, the reality is that radionuclides (atoms with nuclear energy in the water) from the destroyed power plant can be reduced, but never fully eliminated altogether. 

"We thank Japan for its transparent efforts in its decision to dispose of the treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi site. We look forward to the Government of Japan's continued coordination with the International Atomic Energy Agency," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on his official Twitter account on Tuesday.

And while the US' decision to loudly applaud Japan's action is strange in itself considering that the US west coast abuts the Pacific Ocean, Japan's immediate neighbors immediately responded with criticism and concern.

Shortly after Japan's plans were made public, a spokesperson for South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced that the country would be looking into legal options and potentially even petitioning the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to fight back against Japan's intended move. South Korea also recalled Japan's ambassador to Seoul for consultations.

"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," President Moon was quoted as saying. China's foreign ministry on Tuesday blasted the Japanese government for being "extremely irresponsible."

Environmental groups in Japan and around the world have also spoken out clearly against Japan's announcement. 

"The government has taken the wholly unjustified decision to deliberately contaminate the Pacific Ocean with radioactive waste," Kazue Suzuki of Greenpeace Japan told The Guardian newspaper.

The US support for Japan's action is shortsighted, not only regarding the environmental impact on the US, but all Asia-Pacific countries as well. By endorsing Japan's irresponsibility, the US, in fact, is indulging some kind of environmental terrorism. 

With widespread criticism of Japan's plans from across the political spectrum, the enthusiastic US support for it becomes all the more perplexing, until one considers that Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is scheduled to meet Biden in Washington DC on Friday.

If the US were truly concerned about the issue of climate change, it would have joined environmental organizations from Japan and elsewhere around the world in rebuking the Japanese plan to release radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. At the very least, it could have released a neutral statement, neither of support nor of opposition, and privately expressed concern to the Japanese government during Suga's visit to the US.

But it chose to take neither of those paths. By loudly applauding Japan's action, the US has shown publicly that while the Biden administration speaks dramatically differently than Donald Trump on the issue of climate change and environmental protection, it is not above putting calculated political moves above issues of concern for the entire world.

Perhaps most ironically, Japan has allowed itself to be taken advantage of by the US, and will harm itself the most as a result.

The author is an expert in international branding strategy, with a particular area of interest in China's image in the Western world. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn
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