DPP Opposes Nuclear Power Yet Imports Food Products from Fukushima
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 11, 2016
Executive Summary: In order to fast track the importation of food products from Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster area, the Tsai government hastily convened 10 public hearings in three days. This led to clashes in several counties and municipalities. Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee admitted during Legislative Yuan questioning that the government was subjected to Japanese pressure, and that was why the government allowed the imports. The Tsai government suddenly allowed food imports from a nuclear disaster area. It ignored legal procedure and resorted to strong arm tactics. How can the public not be suspicious?
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In order to fast track the importation of food products from Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster area, the Tsai government hastily convened 10 public hearings in three days. This led to clashes in several counties and municipalities. Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee admitted during Legislative Yuan questioning that the government was subjected to Japanese pressure, and that was why the government allowed the imports. The Tsai government suddenly allowed food imports from a nuclear disaster area. It ignored legal procedure and resorted to strong arm tactics. How can the public not be suspicious?
Logically speaking, if one is opposed to nuclear power generation, one must oppose the importation of food products from nuclear disaster areas. How can one shrilly oppose nuclear power generation, demand zero tolerance for nuclear contamination, and at the same time encourage people to purchase food products from nuclear disaster areas? What sort of logic is that? Yet this self-contradictory scenario situation actually materialized on Taiwan. The government is obdurately opposed to nuclear power generation. It refuses to allow Nuclear Power Plant Number Four to go into operation. It refuses to allow Nuclear Power Plant Number One to resume operation following repairs. The government says one thing while it does another. It convened 10 public hearings in three short days, yet failed to come up with any specific security certification and management plans. It simply wants consumers to accept food products imported from a nuclear disaster area. What sort of anti-nuclear standards are these?
The Tsai government's self-contradictory policies have provoked skepticism from environmental groups. Even DPP legislators do not support them. The Tsai government has too many things it cannot explain away. For example, it insists that even the EU, whose health standards are the most stringent in the world, has allowed food imports from the nuclear disaster area. It insists that only Taiwan and the Mainland have not allowed in such imports. But the truth is the European Union never imported much food from Japan to begin with. The Tsai government named only Taiwan and the Mainland. But in fact Korea, Hong Kong, Macao, and others have not allowed food imports from the nuclear disaster area. The United States adopted an alternative approach. Unapproved products are immediately destroyed upon entry.
The Tsai government does not dare say how it intends to prevent low-level nuclear contamination of the food people eat. Inspection standards are looser on Taiwan than in Japan. During the second half of 2012, more than a year after the March 11 incident, many Japanese food products were found to contain radioactive cesium-137 and cesium-134, mainly from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The half-life of cesium is 29 years. Therefore it has a serious impact on the environment. Food products found to contain over 100 BK/kg of radioactive substances are classified as low-level nuclear contaminated food in Japan. But Taiwan's inspection standards are more lax. In other words, the Japanese are not allowed to eat food products contaminated by nuclear waste, but such products may be sold to the people of Taiwan to eat. What sort of logic is this?
This is utterly incredible. Why is the Tsai government, which shrilly proclaims that it “loves Taiwan” more than anyone else, in such a hurry? Take the Ministry of Health and Welfare for example. The DPP has long stressed the importance of legal procedure. Yet the Tsai government is in a big hurry to hold public hearings, ram through its policies, and put the whole affair behind it. Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee spoke but said nothing. Was he trading the health of Taiwan's people for the sake of Taiwan Japanese relations?
Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States. His foreign policy will turn inward. The return to Asia policy will be subject to reevaluation. The East Asian strategic situation will change. The TPP is definitely DOA. Mainland Chinese pressure will increase Taiwan's strategic insecurity and economic marginalization. Tsai government representative to Japan Frank Hsieh commented on Trump's election victory. He said that given the rise of protectionism and isolationism, Taiwan should cope by taking advantage of its relationship with Japan. The Tsai government is clearly interested in closer cooperation with Japan. But is it willing to bet the people's health by importing food products from the nuclear contamination area as soon as possible?
No one objects to closer substantive relations between Taiwan and Japan. But is it really necessary to sacrifice peoples' health? Is an ally that demands the importation of food products from a nuclear disaster zone in order to have a relationship, really an ally that can be trusted? Since the Tsai government came to power, its behavior when confronted by Japan, on everything from Diaoyutai to Cong Zhi Niao Reef, can only be described as groveling. And for what? Fisheries rights? Hardly. So that James Soong and can be seen at the APEC summit, standing side by side with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, holding hands while press photographers snap away? Is it really necessary for our fellow citizens to live in fear? Is importing food products from nuclear disaster areas really worth it?
Why is the Tsai government so confident and bold? Perhaps another factor is involved. Most people on Taiwan have a favorable impression of Japan. They are fond of Japanese products. In particular, a recent opinion poll on public sentiment vis a vis Japan revealed that 56% of the people consider Japan their "favorite nation". This established a new record high. This data is probably accurate. But even a veteran Japanese journalist said the two governments should not abuse or misread this goodwill.
When the KMT government came under pressure from the United States and allowed US beef imports, the DPP resolutely opposed and strongly protested the move. But the moment the DPP assumed power, it allowed US pork imports. The Ma government proposed allowing the importation of Japanese food products from the nuclear disaster area. But the DPP shrilly opposed the move and blocked it. Now that the DPP has come to power however, it no longer takes the health of the people of Taiwan seriously. How can the DPP justify itself in the face of its past conduct?
It is not that food products from Japan's nuclear disaster area absolutely may not be imported. But the DPP has repeatedly boasted that it is the government most adept at communicating with the people. Shouldn't it first come up with an oversight mechanism with integrity, credibility, and consistent with international norms, to ensure food safety? Shouldn't it first communicate with the people, rather than attempt to smuggle its policies in on the sly, and ram its policies down peoples' throats?