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Japan urges Taiwan to scrap its plan to tighten restrictions on food imports

Japan urges Taiwan to scrap its plan to tighten restrictions on food imports

TOKYO: Japan has urged Taiwan to scrap its plan to tighten restrictions on food imports from Japan, but Taipei demanded that Tokyo first address a food-labeling scandal.

Taiwan accused food companies of falsely labeling products from nuclear-stricken Fukushima Prefecture and other places in an attempt to evade the import ban.

A Liberal Democratic Party delegation, which included Nobuo Kishi, a former vice foreign minister, met with Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou on May 1 and asked Ma to retract the decision to impose stricter regulations on Japanese food products.

Taiwan banned imports of food items produced in Fukushima and four other prefectures after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake triggered the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Tokyo had been working to get Taiwan to ease regulations when it was discovered in March that some food products from the five prefectures were imported with forged place-of-origin labels saying they were from elsewhere in Japan.

In response to the scandal, Taiwan decided to strengthen restrictions on Japanese food imports. Effective May 15, the tighter regulations will require importers to submit results of radiation level checks for certain food articles from specific areas outside the five prefectures.

According to Kishi, the latest request is in line with the intention of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

During the May 1 meeting, the Japanese side argued that the false labeling issue is a “separate matter” from tightening restrictions, and said the tighter regulations have no scientific basis.

According to the Taiwan presidential office, Ma said the priority is seeking out the truth behind the scandal and developing preventive measures. He also requested that Japan make efforts to resolve the issue.