CHINA / SOCIETY
China urges Japan to rethink all safe ways of disposal of nuclear-contaminated water; legal battle considered even without US cooperation
US position has no substantive impact on legal battle against Japan: experts
Published: Apr 18, 2021 10:11 PM
SOS, Save Our Sea. Graphic: Xiong Xiaoying/GT

SOS, Save Our Sea. Graphic: Xiong Xiaoying/GT



As Japan has not compromised over its decision to dump Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water into the sea despite wide opposition, China's environmental authorities on Sunday again urged Japan to rethink all safe ways of disposal to deal with the nuclear wastewater in a timely and transparent manner, while observers said that uniting stakeholders to launch a legal battle against Japan is one option.

China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment stressed that the Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water has "fundamental differences" with discharges from a normally operated nuclear plant. Such a unilateral decision by Japan to dump the contaminated water into the sea before exhausting all safe methods of disposal or fully consulting with stakeholders is irresponsible, it said.

The Chinese ministry's concern was expressed after the US shrugged off South Korea's call for cooperation in ensuring that Japan share data relating to the dumping transparently and swiftly. Visiting US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said in Seoul on Sunday it is not appropriate for the US to step into the process and the US is not planning anything right now, Yonhap reported on Sunday.

US' two-faced trick on Fukushima.Infographic: Feng Qingyin and Xu Zihe/GT

US' two-faced trick on Fukushima.Infographic: Feng Qingyin and Xu Zihe/GT



Although South Korea regarded the US as a country of leadership in backing South Korea to address concerns over Japan's dumping of nuclear wastewater, the US chose to take the opposite stance and ignore the righteous calls from Seoul. Not to say the US is evading the issue, it even had "thanked" Japan for being transparent, media reports said.

"South Korea and the international community observe the US position over the issue clearly. The US is putting its narrow-minded strategic interests above the interests of the people of the region and even global human health and safety," Lü Chao, a fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said on Sunday.

Facing such an obviously wicked issue, Washington is choosing to collude with Tokyo and walk away from its national morality and responsibility, while trifling with the health and safety of future generations, including its own, Lü said.

Agreeing with many legal experts, Lü suggested that China and South Korea take the lead and stand together with all stakeholders to address the concerns, such as filing specific plans for compensation or other legal battles against Japan.

The stance of the US is important in pressuring Japan, given its voice in maritime governance. However, whether the US supports Japan or not, it cannot conceal the fact that Japan has violated international law and principles, and it won't have a substantive impact on the results of a legal battle between Japan and relevant countries, experts said.

Gao Zhiguo, president of the Chinese Society of the Law of the Sea and former judge of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), told the Global Times on Sunday that the most feasible way is for China and South Korea to jointly request a legal advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or the ITLOS, which will have great significance as it will exert great pressure on Japan in terms of public opinion and international law. 

Gao noted that such an alliance of China and South Korea, if any, could be directly initiated by the foreign ministries of the two countries. 

Hong Kong residents gather with signs outside the Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong on Saturday, protesting the Japanese government's decision to dump the Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean. They urged the Japanese government to immediately suspend the plan. Photo: cnsphoto

Hong Kong residents gather with signs outside the Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong on Saturday, protesting the Japanese government's decision to dump the Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean. They urged the Japanese government to immediately suspend the plan. Photo: cnsphoto



Gao said a series of principles, norms and obligations of international law can be applied when dealing with Japan's decision to dump Fukushima's nuclear wastewater into the sea, including a precautionary principle, which requires decision-makers to adopt precautionary measures when scientific evidence about an environmental or human health hazard is uncertain and the stakes are high.

Additionally, based on the "polluter pays" principle and principle of state responsibility and compensation, coastal residents of Japan (including those in Fukushima) , South Korea and China who would be severely affected by the pollution after Japan dumped its nuclear wastewater into the sea can form a delegation to file a lawsuit against Japan, Gao said.

"We enjoy the moral and legal high ground in issues like environmental protection and fisheries. If we resort to the ICJ or ITLOS, we have a big chance of winning," Gao said.

On Sunday, the Chinese environment ministry urged Japan to conduct further research on all safe ways of disposal and release related information in a timely and transparent way.

A cautious decision should be made after a careful consideration of all other safe methods of disposal and full consultation with all stakeholders, it said. 

A Chinese nuclear expert told the Global Times on condition of anonymity that Japan is hardly credible to the international community. One reason is because the data are not comprehensive and a lot of key information is hidden. Another reason is the poor record of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in handling nuclear incidents.


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