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Yoon requests Kishida to halt wastewater discharge if radiation levels exceed standard

Leaders meet for sixth time, condemn NK missile launch

By Shin Ji-hye, Choi Si-young

Published : July 12, 2023 - 21:33

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President Yoon Suk Yeol (left) and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at their meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Lithuania. (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol (left) and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at their meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Lithuania. (Yonhap)

VILNIUS, Lithuania/SEOUL -- President Yoon Suk Yeol has requested from Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to halt the discharge of wastewater from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant if radiation levels remain over the line even after filtering out radioactive elements.

At their meeting held on the sidelines of the NATO summit on Wednesday, Yoon also asked his Japanese counterpart to share monitoring information over the discharge process in real time, and to allow Korean experts to participate in the process of the discharge, according to the presidential office's statement.

In response, Kishida said no discharge that threatens the safety of either the Japanese or the Korean people would take place, the statement added, saying the Japanese leader promised to take all relevant measures, including suspending the wastewater release if radiation levels exceeded safe limits.

A review by the International Atomic Energy Agency is to be underway, according to Kishida. The United Nations nuclear watchdog last week endorsed Japan’s discharge plan because the release into the Pacific Ocean in stages “would have a negligible radiological impact to people and the environment.”

But opposition parties in Korea have slammed the report, saying it does little to assuage growing safety concerns raised by not only South Korea, but many Pacific island nations.

The two leaders also condemned North Korea’s latest launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, a test that came hours ahead of their summit.

The meeting that lasted about 30 minutes took place at a time when the North, which still defies international sanctions prompted by its nuclear and missile programs, is accusing the US as the aggressor responsible for stoking inter-Korean tension.

The North had called out American spy planes it said violated its airspace and an American nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine that visited South Korea.

“The South Korean and Japanese leaders agreed that North Korea’s provocation threatens peace not only in the region but in the world, and that the two along with the US will more closely communicate and work with each other,” the statement released by Yoon’s office read.

Yoon and Kishida also welcomed the proposal for a three-way meeting with US President Joe Biden, who floated the idea in late May, when he was attending the Group of Seven Summit in Hiroshima, Japan.

At the time, Tokyo invited Seoul to take part in the gathering amid a thaw in ties prompted by Korea’s decision to put behind them long-running colonial disputes over forced labor. Korea relieved Japanese companies from having to compensate its forced labor victims recognized in a 2018 Korean court ruling. Yoon’s push to rally stronger three-way support against Pyongyang had led to the settlement.