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International relations

Japan to toughen inspections of South Korean seafood

Tokyo denies payback for Seoul's ban on seafood from Fukushima

Garak-dong market in Seoul: The Japanese government has announced stricter inspections for some seafood following reports of food poisoning.   © Reuters

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japanese health ministry said Thursday it will toughen inspections of flounder and other seafood imported from South Korea from June, saying the measure was prompted by food-poisoning cases reported domestically.

The government denied the move is intended to retaliate against South Korea's ban on fishery products from Fukushima and seven other prefectures introduced in the wake of the 2011 nuclear disaster in the northeastern Japan prefecture.

"This step will be put in place from the standpoint of protecting the health of the people and is not a countermeasure against South Korea," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference.

Last year, 82 people in Japan suffered from food poisoning in seven cases as they ate South Korea-produced flounder with parasites, according to the ministry.

Expecting an increase in imports of the fish from June through next March, the ministry said it will inspect 40 percent of the registered imports, doubling from the current 20 percent.

The ministry said it will similarly boost monitoring of three types of shellfish and a sea urchin from all countries next month. It will decide whether to continue the measure beyond June after checking the results.

Depending on the outcome of the sampling inspections, the ministry said it will consider conducting total examinations of the seafood imports.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday it is aware of the Japanese government's move and that Seoul will closely monitor the matter, adding that it will take action if needed.

In April, the World Trade Organization's appellate body for dispute settlement ruled in favor of the South Korean ban on Japanese fishery products, drawing criticism from Japan.

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