Kerry throws US weight behind Japan’s Fukushima decision despite South Korea’s fears

In this photo provided by US Embassy Seoul, US special envoy for climate John Kerry speaks during a round table meeting with the media in Seoul, South Korea, April 18, 2021. (Via AP)

US climate envoy John Kerry has reaffirmed Washington’s confidence in Japan’s plan to release contaminated water from its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea despite fierce objection from South Korea.

The South Korean foreign ministry said Sunday that Seoul had raised concerns over Japan’s decision with Kerry, who arrived in the capital on Saturday to discuss international efforts to address climate change.

Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong sought to muster support for South Korea’s protest against the Fukushima plan, under which more than one million tons of contaminated water will be released into the nearby sea off Japan’s east coast.

The Fukushima was damaged in an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

South Korea strongly rebuked the decision and summoned the Japanese ambassador over the contentious plan. President Moon Jae-in also directed officials to explore petitioning an international court for legal proceedings.

“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 foreign ministry said in a statement.

However, at a media roundtable on Sunday, Kerry threw Washington’s weight behind the decision, which he said Japan had made in a transparent manner.

“The United States is confident that the government of Japan is in very full consultations with the IAEA,” the former senator and secretary of state 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,” he added.

Kerry said President Joe Biden aimed to urge world leaders to commit to more ambitious greenhouse gas emissions targets during his virtual summit on climate change on April 22-23.

The United States is expected to announce its own new emissions target for 2030 this week.

The US is the second largest carbon emitter after China. The two countries release nearly half of the fossil fuel fumes that scientists say are warming the earth’s atmosphere.

Kerry met with his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua during two days of talks in Shanghai last week and agreed that the US and China would cooperate to tackle climate change with urgency.

The two countries “are committed to cooperating with each other and with other countries to tackle the climate crisis, which must be addressed with the seriousness and urgency that it demands,” they said in a joint statement.

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