US climate envoy John Kerry has reaffirmed Washington’s confidence in Japan’s decision to release contaminated water from its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea despite concerns raised by South Korea.
Kerry arrived in Seoul on Saturday to discuss international efforts to tackle global warming, on a trip that included a stop in China ahead of President Joe Biden’s virtual summit with world leaders on climate change this month.
South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong sought to rally support behind the country’s protest against the Fukushima plan at a dinner meeting with Kerry.
Under the plan, more than one million tonnes of water will be discharged from the plant wrecked by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 into the nearby sea off Japan’s east coast.
Seoul strongly rebuked the decision, with the foreign ministry summoning the Japanese ambassador and President Moon Jae-in ordering officials to explore petitioning an international court.
“Minister Chung conveyed our government and people’s serious concerns about Japan’s decision, and asked the US side to take interest and cooperate so that Japan will provide information in a more transparent and speedy manner,” the ministry said in a statement.
But Kerry, at a media roundtable on Sunday, said Tokyo had made the decision in a transparent manner and will continue following due procedures.
“The US is confident that the government of Japan is in very full consultations with the IAEA,” he said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“The IAEA has set up a very rigorous process and I know that Japan has weighed all the options and the effects and they’ve been very transparent about the decision and the process.”
The former US secretary of state added that Washington would closely monitor Japan’s implementation “like every country, to make certain there is no public health threat”.
“We think we have confidence in the ability of IAEA and Japan and our relationship with the agency. We need to see how it progresses, and how they do, but we don’t think it is appropriate for the US to jump into a process that’s already underway and where there are very clear rules and expectations,” Kerry said.