Japan's nuclear dump still on, Samoa quiet

By Shalveen Chand 08 February 2023, 9:00AM

Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna and the Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown are in Japan this week meeting with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and key ministers.

Brown, as the incoming Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, will be joined by the Republic of the Marshall Islands Minister for Foreign Affairs,Kitlang Kabua at their high level meeting with the Japan leader.

“Plans by Japan to begin discharging over a million tonnes of treated Fukushima nuclear wastewater into the Pacific in 2023 are a core reason for the Forum visit. Talks may also include the Japan-Pacific Forum nations dialogue partner relationship and ongoing priorities set by Forum Leaders, particularly related to Oceans and the Blue Pacific 2050 Strategy,” said SG Puna.

“The visit is in pursuit of our joint commitment at the PALM9 to safeguard our nations against nuclear contamination. It is a demonstration of the importance that we place on Japan as a partner and I am confident that they will continue to work with the region towards a common and shared understanding of the key priorities that we have highlighted,” he said.

“Last week, Forum Chair and Prime Minister of Fiji Sitiveni Rabuka wrote to PM Kishida, conveying his full support as Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum for this mission, so our high-level delegation is in Japan with the full mandate and support of our membership”.

The high-level political visit takes place ahead of a technical mission to Fukushima by members of the Forum Independent scientific expert advisory group.

In all of this, Samoa is yet to make its stand known, however, Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa has previously stated that they would take their lead from the Pacific Islands Forum.

Japan’s failure to consider the request from the Forum before the discharge in a little over a month’s time could also lead to Japan losing its status as a Forum dialogue partner but for that to happen members would need a vote.

Japan has been adamant that the treated wastewater is safe and has been trying to persuade Pacific nations to rally their support behind them.

Just last week, the President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) David Panuelo expressed his support for Japan's plans to release treated nuclear wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.

It follows a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Kishida Fumio in Japan last week. The FSM was reportedly given US$2.5 million in aid after the talks.

"The ocean is the life source of our nations, we derive our livelihood from the ocean," President David Panuelo said at a media conference.

"We trust in the government of Japan in doing the right thing. That any dumping does not harm a shared asset which is the Pacific Ocean.

"Our country is no longer fearful or concerned about this issue as I relayed at the United Nations General Assembly.

Mr. Panuelo went on to say he has a 'deep trust' in Japan's intentions and technological capabilities in not harming the ocean.

When questioned on where that trust stems from after so much backlash he explained that in a nutshell, independent research has been carried out.

"We have been satisfied with the information that we have been given, but this is not to say that we are stopping, we continue to consult with the government of Japan,” he said.

"I believe that an accountable government will not do a thing to harm our Pacific Ocean. We will continue consultations, individually or bilaterally or through the Pacific Islands Forum."

The date for the release is set for April and Japan has shown no signs of backing away claiming their action is safe.

By Shalveen Chand 08 February 2023, 9:00AM
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