The United States has for the first time begun buying Japanese seafood to supply its military there, a response to China’s ban on such products imposed after Tokyo released treated water from its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.
Unveiling the initiative in a Reuters interview on Monday, US ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said Washington should also look more broadly into how it could help offset China’s ban that he said was part of its “economic wars”. China, which had been the biggest buyer of Japanese seafood, says its ban is due to food safety fears.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog vouched for the safety of the water release that began in August from the plant wrecked by a 2011 tsunami. G7 trade ministers on Sunday called for the immediate repeal of bans on Japanese food.
“It’s going to be a long-term contract between the US armed forces and the fisheries and co-ops here in Japan,” Emanuel said. “The best way we have proven in all the instances to kind of wear out China’s economic coercion is come to the aid and assistance of the targeted country or industry,” he said.
Emanuel, who was former US President Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff, has in recent months made a series of blunt statements on China, taking aim at various issues including its economic policies, opaque decision-making and treatment of foreign firms. That has come as top US officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have visited Beijing in an effort to draw a line under strained ties.
The most recent official youth unemployment data from China, published in July before Beijing said it was suspending publication of the numbers, showed it jumping to a record high of 21.3%.
Emanuel said he was also keeping a close watch on how China’s leadership responds to the recent death of former Premier Li Keqiang, a reformist who was sidelined by President Xi Jinping.