震災と国際社会 世界への発信足りない

(Mainichi Japan) April 7, 2011
Gov't, TEPCO should release more information on radiation contamination
社説:震災と国際社会 世界への発信足りない

The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) appear to be too insensitive to global criticism over their response to the crisis at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant that the power supplier operates.

It should be regarded as a diplomatic blunder that the government has come under fire for failing to provide a detailed explanation to not only local governments concerned and fishermen's cooperatives but also neighboring countries before discharging water contaminated with low levels of radiation from the plant into the sea.

The administration of Prime Minister Naoto Kan should keep in mind that the crisis at the tsunami-hit nuclear power plant could have a huge impact on a global scale and that many countries share the same concerns and interests with Japan regarding nuclear power generation.

The South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry expressed deep displeasure at Japan's failure to notify Seoul before discharging radioactive water into the sea, while the Russian government has voiced concern that radiation could adversely affect fishing resources.

It is a matter of course that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano expressed regret over Tokyo's failure to provide an explanation before releasing contaminated water into the ocean, saying, "We must take seriously the opinions that we should've provided a detailed explanation in advance."

The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which Japan is a signatory, obligates parties to prevent the contamination of sea water and minimize the release of toxic or harmful substances into the sea from ground-based sources.

Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto denied that TEPCO's discharge of radioactive water into the sea from the Fukushima nuclear plant constitutes a breach of duties specified by the convention, suggesting that whether to release information on the discharge of radioactive water is left to the discretion of the government.

His judgment may be in line with the widely accepted interpretation of the treaty. However, this is more than a matter of obligations written on paper. It is rather a matter of responsibility and common sense that Japan should have shown to the world as a country that has caused grave anxiety to the international community as a result of the nuclear power plant accident.

Once released into the sea or atmosphere, radioactive substances spread regardless of territorial water and airspace.

Even though the amount of radiation is said to be minimal and will have no impact on people's health, continuing to release radioactive materials means continuing to pollute the planet.

If the government and TEPCO are aware of that, they should consider the weight of their accountability to the world.

Since the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake struck, 134 countries and territories have offered to extend relief to Japan, and 32 countries, territories and international organizations have provided relief supplies to disaster-hit areas.

The U.S. and other rescue teams played an important role in searching for missing people and recovering the bodies of victims.

The calm behavior of survivors and the maintenance of law and order in society have greatly impressed the world. 被災者たちの落ち着いた言動や秩序立った社会の様子は、世界に強い感銘をもたらした。

These incidents have reminded us that Japan is closely linked to the rest of the world.

At the same time, however, the governments of many other countries as well as overseas media outlets have become increasingly critical of the Japanese government and TEPCO for releasing too little information on the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant and in a late manner.

Japan should cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and other international bodies in creating a system to promptly dispatch detailed information to the world on radiation contamination and how to respond to the crisis.

The government and TEPCO's inward-looking responses to the crisis could cause friction with other countries and damage cooperative relations Japan has nurtured with the international community.

毎日新聞 2011年4月7日 東京朝刊

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