South Korea will actively seek ways to deal with Japan's planned discharge of water contaminated as a result of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown, Seoul's foreign ministry said Tuesday, amid concern storage space will soon run out.
The treatment of radioactive water stored in tanks in Fukushima has drawn international concern in recent months following reports that the Japanese government is considering releasing the water into the Pacific Ocean, among other options.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility company managing the storage, has said it will run out of space to store the toxic water in three years. Greenpeace warned in a report early this year that South Korea will be among countries particularly affected by the discharge into the sea.
"Our government puts top priority on the health and safety of our citizens, and we plan to actively ask Japan to disclose information and to provide us with a concrete stance on the current management system and disposal plans," ministry spokesman Kim In-chul told a regular press briefing.
Seoul has proposed that Tokyo hold bilateral and multilateral talks over the matter since the government became aware in August 2018 of a plan to discharge the water, Kim added.
Two months later, the government sent Tokyo an official statement detailing national concerns and requests in relation to the matter, and continued negotiations over the issue at various levels, bilaterally as well as through multilateral channels, according to the ministry.
The ministry said Japan has only maintained that the final decision on disposal of the radioactive water is still under review and that it will announce it to the international community when it's ready.
"If it's deemed necessary, we will also closely cooperate with our neighbors in the Pacific that are also feared to be affected, so as to actively cope with the problem of the discharge of contaminated water," Kim said.
In that regard, the government is mulling over other concrete actions such as raising the matter at the IAEA General Conference to be held in Vienna next month and the South Korea-China-Japan Top Regulators' Meeting on Nuclear Safety, which is to take place in China in November.
While there's no other country yet to formally take issue with Japan's reported move to release contaminated water, the environmental authorities of many Pacific nations are apparently keeping a close eye on it, a ministry official said later on background.
International environmental groups including Greenpeace are voicing concern about the issue as well, the official added.
Asked about the possibility of South Korea boycotting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in connection with the matter, the ministry spokesman avoided a direct answer.
Seoul and Tokyo are locked in an escalating economic and political row stemming from the longstanding issue of compensation for wartime forced labor.
Since 2013, South Korea has banned all seafood imports from eight Japanese prefectures near Fukushima, after Japan announced a leak of contaminated water.
Tokyo sought to challenge Seoul's decision by lodging a complaint at the World Trade Organization (WTO). In April this year, the WTO finalized the ruling in favor of Seoul, saying the measures do not amount to unfair trade restrictions or arbitrary discrimination. (Yonhap)