U.S. Military Initiates Bulk Purchase of Japanese Seafood Amid China’s Ban

by Ella

The United States has embarked on a large-scale procurement of Japanese seafood to meet the dietary requirements of its military stationed in Japan, responding to China’s ban on Japanese seafood products following Tokyo’s discharge of treated water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean.

In a recent Reuters interview, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel unveiled this strategic initiative, emphasizing the need for Washington to explore measures to counterbalance China’s ban, which he labeled as part of China’s “economic wars.”


China, which had been the largest consumer of Japanese seafood, cited food safety concerns as the reason for the ban.


The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog has endorsed the safety of the water release from the Fukushima plant, which began in August after the facility was devastated by a tsunami in 2011. Over the weekend, G7 trade ministers called for the immediate removal of restrictions on Japanese food.


Emanuel stated, “It’s going to be a long-term contract between the U.S. armed forces and the fisheries and co-ops here in Japan,” and added, “The best way we have proven in all the instances to kind of wear out China’s economic coercion is to come to the aid and assistance of the targeted country or industry.”


When questioned about Emanuel’s remarks during a press conference, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin commented that diplomats should promote friendly relations between countries rather than tarnishing other nations and inciting trouble.

The initial purchase under this arrangement involves just under a metric ton of scallops, a small fraction of the over 100,000 tons of scallops Japan exported to mainland China in the previous year.

Emanuel anticipates that these purchases, which will cater to soldiers in military dining facilities, on vessels, and will be available in stores and restaurants on military bases, will encompass a variety of seafood over time. He highlighted that the U.S. military had not previously procured local seafood in Japan.

Moreover, the United States is contemplating its overall fish imports from Japan and China, while discussions with Japanese authorities are underway to redirect locally-caught scallops to U.S.-registered processors.

Emanuel, who previously served as White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama, has made several candid statements on China in recent months, addressing various issues such as China’s economic policies, lack of transparency in decision-making, and treatment of foreign companies. This candid approach aligns with top U.S. officials’ efforts to mend strained ties during their visits to Beijing.

When asked if he considered himself a China hawk, Emanuel rejected the term, preferring to identify as a “realist.” He stressed the importance of honesty in diplomatic relations, stating, “I’m all for stability, understanding. That doesn’t mean you’re not honest. They’re not contradictory. One of the ways you establish stability is that you’re able to be honest with each other.”

Emanuel observed that China is confronting significant economic challenges, exacerbated by a leadership determined to withdraw from international systems. He highlighted the impact of these decisions on China’s youth, revealing that approximately 30% of Chinese youth are unemployed, with unfinished housing projects in major cities and municipalities struggling to pay city workers. This situation, he argued, resulted from China’s political choice to disengage from a system that had previously benefited them.

Recent official youth unemployment data from China, released before the suspension of these statistics’ publication, indicated a record high of 21.3%.

Emanuel is also monitoring China’s response to the passing of former Premier Li Keqiang, a reformist who was marginalized by President Xi Jinping. He noted that how China handles Li’s funeral and the comments about him will provide insight into how a segment of Chinese society views the policies he advocated.

Emanuel concluded, “I do think that there’s kind of a section of China that sees what kind of policies he was pursuing as kind of the best of China. But that’s up for China to decide.”



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