Tokyo and Beijing to discuss easing Japanese food import ban

TOKYO, Jan. 6 — Japan and China may soon set up a working group to discuss easing a ban on Japanese food imports imposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, informed sources have said.

China is the No.4 export market for Japanese seafood and agriculture products, after Hong Kong, the United States and Taiwan.

Yet, the ban has remained in place on all the food imports from 10 prefectures affected by the accident. They are Fukushima, Tokyo, Niigata, Nagano, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama and Chiba.

Beijing also hasn’t resumed the importing of vegetables and fruits from other prefectures, according to Japanese officials.

Experts say that the food import issue will be linked to political moves related to Tokyo and Beijing turning a new page for more constructive bilateral ties in the near future. Both are looking to high level meetings between China and Japan’s top leadership.

In late December, Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party visited Beijing and met Chinese President Xi Jinping, and invited Xi to visit Tokyo.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe himself had already offered the same invitation to Xi.

During the visit to Beijing, Nikai also discussed the import ban with Chinese officials, which included Zhi Shuping, the head of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), China’s food safety watchdog.

The discussion prompted the two sides to aim to set up a working group to discuss the import ban, Japanese officials said.

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