Taiwan eases nuclear-accident food import ban from Japan
Taiwan said on Tuesday it would relax a food imports ban from areas in Japan around the site of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, as it pushes for support from Tokyo in its bid to join a major trans-Pacific trade pact.
Taiwan imposed a blanket ban on food imports from five regions in and around Fukushima in 2011, after radioactive particles were detected on some products following the devastating meltdown of the nuclear power plant.
The relaxation comes as Taipei lobbies for inclusion in the region's largest free trade pact, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) -- which accounts for more than 13 percent of the global economy -- despite Chinese opposition.
President Tsai Ing-wen, writing in a Facebook post Tuesday, said the move would boost Taipei's chances of joining the trade pact and help the island "go global and stand in the world, creating more opportunities and prosperity".
While Japan does not formally recognise Taiwan, relations between the two have warmed in recent years with Tokyo donating several batches of Covid vaccines to the island and becoming more outspoken about China's growing influence in the region.
Taiwan's cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng said the government will "reasonably adjust the restrictions" to their blanket ban on Fukushima-related food imports, since most countries have lifted or relaxed controls.
"Taiwan is a trade-reliant country and if we want to join international trade organisations and the high-standard CPTPP... we can't turn a blind eye to international standards," he told a press conference Tuesday.
Currently only Taiwan and China ban all food imports from the Fukushima region, Lo said, adding Taipei's decision will take effect by the end of February.
A few items -- including mushrooms, wild game, and a Japanese vegetable known as koshiabura -- will still be banned, while some products would require radiation safety certificates.
Taiwan applied last September to become a member of the CPTPP -- which was signed by 11 Asia Pacific countries, including Japan.
But island's bid was opposed by China, which submitted its own application.
Beijing claims self-ruled democratic Taiwan as its own territory to be reclaimed one day, by force if necessary.
It has increasingly stepped up diplomatic efforts to isolate the island on the world stage.
On the military front, it has also ramped up pressure, flying an unprecedented number of war planes into Taiwan's air defence zone -- with more than double the number of incursions recorded in 2021 compared to the year before.