China has told Japan its blanket radiation testing on seafood imports from the neighboring country introduced last month is "a necessary measure" to protect its consumers, according to sources familiar with the bilateral relationship.
The testing is 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, possibly from late August.
Beijing has communicated through diplomatic channels its practice of detaining seafood imports from Japan at customs for up to a month before clearance. Meanwhile, Tokyo has expressed renewed concerns about this procedure, urging for "appropriate" customs processes, according to the sources.
In addition to seafood, other food and beverage items, including rice, from Japan have faced delays at Chinese customs following the introduction of blanket testing.
The two Asian neighbors have had several rounds of consultations over the across-the-board testing of seafood items at Chinese customs, with Beijing claiming it "needs to prevent imports of radiation-contaminated Japanese food products," the sources said.
In those sessions, China did not elaborate on concrete steps taken by customs authorities regarding food imports other than marine products, they added.
China has prohibited food imports from Fukushima and nine other Japanese prefectures since a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011 triggered a major accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
If the water discharge begins, Beijing could further tighten controls on food imports from Japan.
The International Atomic Energy Agency concluded in a report submitted to the Japanese government in July that the planned Fukushima water release aligns with global safety standards and will have "a negligible radiological impact on people and the environment."
However, China has contended that the IAEA did not adequately represent the perspectives of the participating experts in their review and remains opposed to the planned water discharge.