Wastewater dump decision a Japanese-US deal shrouded in darkness
Published: Jun 18, 2021 09:43 AM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

 Two months ago, Japan announced its decision to release more than one million tons of “treated” wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean. The unilateral decision, which will highly likely cause severe danger to the maritime environment, food safety and human health, has raised concern and opposition from regional stakeholders including China, South Korea and Pacific Islands. Interestingly, however, Western countries that have always paid close attention to environmental issues have yet to oppose Japan’s decision or even express any form of concern. Even more inexplicably, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken supported the move by “thanking” Japan for its “full transparency” in his statement. 

People around the world are irritated and confused. Historically, proposals for a “Green New Deal” have arisen as early as 2000s in the US and has all along been supported by American Democrats. More recently, Biden has convened the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate, vowing to restore America’s leadership on the climate agenda. People are almost convinced that after it rejoins the Paris Agreement, the US has finally decided to shoulder some responsibilities for planet Earth and human being. The illusion was quickly broken and thereby prompts speculations: is the Biden government really concerned for the environment? What’s the logic behind his approval for Japan’s irreversibly harmful behavior? Would the US have reacted differently if it were other countries doing the dumping, for example, China?

One of the most thought-provoking fact is the timing of Japan’s announcement: just days before Prime Minister Suga’s visit to the US. After ten years of cheating, evading and cover-up since the Fukushima disaster, why did Japan suddenly dare enough to make public all its selfishness and immoralities? Japan wouldn’t have fought against the world alone, unless it knew someone would hold the candle to the devil. Analysts, including some in Japan, rightly believe that the intention behind Japan’s announcement of its bombshell before the visit is to make it a part of the exchange of political benefits. It becomes only plausible that Japanese government must have explained its plan to the Biden administration sufficiently ahead of the announcement. 

You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. The US is eager to do Japan a favor, as the latter is considered a pawn for the Biden administration’s pressing need to “outcompete” China. Biden needs to make sure that Japan, situated in Asia-Pacific and having profound interest in its cooperation with both China and the US, will fall on the US side to become a pioneer in the effort to contain China. What other benefits has Biden promised to Japan? Maybe the approval of nuclear water dump is only the appetizer. 

Japan is no less desperate than Uncle Sam. Prevarication and incompetence have made the nuclear water a headache and time bomb for ten years for the Japanese government since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Calculations of political benefits have discouraged Suga from investing money in safe ways of disposal. Yet obviously the simple and low-cost solution for disposing nuclear wastewater will come under pressure homely, regionally and internationally. Since Washington is the sole presence that can exert influence on Tokyo, only support from the Biden administration can make the plan happen. What a perfectly mutual-beneficial deal! China is confronted and yens are saved. As for the Earth and the environment? Why bother? It seems that for the Biden administration, the so-called environment issue has a “nationality”, as British video blogger Barrie VVeiss ironically commented, “Solar panels made in China are bad, but Japanese nuclear sewage is good.” 

The unanimous tolerance of some Western politicians and media outlets toward Japan's decision has laid bare their double standards. Geopolitics weighs more than the lives and health of the people. The deadly blow to the fishing industry is neglectable as long as no politician is forced to step down. Human right of ordinary citizens can be treated like dirt in front of political interest. And it’s way too early to think for future generations. Environment? It only becomes an issue when it can be exploited to attack China. Chinese solar panels should be boycotted and sanctioned. A round of applause for the Japanese government to treat the Pacific Ocean as its trash can. 

As Japan rushes making specific arrangements for the dumping, one has every reason to expect additional Japanese-US deals hidden in the darkness. Apart from the nod and smile of Uncle Sam, nothing matters for the Japanese government, be it the objections of people in the region or the legitimate concerns of neighbor countries. Known for its “craftsmanship”, Japan will most presumably spare no effort coming up with a plan to minimize negative effects on American Pacific coast, even at the expense of other regional countries which, sadly, will not even receive a typical Japanese “apology.”

The author is a current affairs observer. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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