Chinese customs authorities have rejected the Japanese government's repeated requests for explanations about their blanket radiation testing on seafood imports from Japan introduced earlier this month, sources familiar with the bilateral relationship said Friday.
Tokyo is currently investigating the testing across China and considering filing a request for Beijing to take "science-based measures" through diplomatic channels once it finds out the details of the new steps, the sources said.
The fresh measures that keep seafood imports from Japan at customs for up to one month before clearance are believed to have been adopted to pressure Tokyo over its plan to begin releasing treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea from this summer.
The total radiation testing has prompted some businesses in China to forego importing seafood from Japan and find alternative procurement sources.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno expressed "strong concern" Friday over China's de facto seafood import curbs and called for their early removal, saying they "run counter to an international trend of easing or lifting restrictions" following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Tokyo relayed its concern over the matter to Chinese diplomatic authorities, urging Beijing to properly deal with the situation, a senior Japanese government official said Friday.
Last week, the European Union announced its policy of lifting the remaining import restrictions it imposed on food products from a part of Japan after the Fukushima crisis, leaving the number of countries and regions maintaining such controls at 11, including China, South Korea and Hong Kong.
The blanket testing began shortly after Chinese customs authorities said in a July 7 statement that they will "maintain a high degree of vigilance" and "take all necessary measures in a timely manner according to the development of the situation." Beijing vehemently opposes the planned Fukushima water discharge.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Thursday, "Our opposition to Japan's ocean discharge plan is based on facts and reason, (and) so are the measures that we have decided to take." But she did not elaborate on the reason.
Since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by a major earthquake and tsunami, China has banned food imports from Fukushima and nine other Japanese prefectures. If the water discharge begins, Beijing could further tighten controls on food imports from Japan.
Japan has proposed to China to set up a dialogue involving nuclear experts from both countries to discuss the planned Fukushima water release, but Beijing has yet to respond to the call for a working-level consultation, Japanese government sources said.
The Global Times, a tabloid affiliated with China's ruling Communist Party, said in its editorial Thursday that Beijing is not obliged to cooperate as Tokyo intends to make China "unconditionally accept" Japan's plan through the consultation mechanism.
"China does not refuse negotiations, but we reject using negotiations as a pretext," it said.