S. Korea to launch task force against radioactive water from Japan
Published : Apr 6, 2011 - 19:30
Updated : Apr 6, 2011 - 19:30

  South Korea will launch a task force to handle possible contingencies from Japan's recent discharge of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean, an official said Wednesday.

   The decision came after a series of inter-agency meetings held earlier in the day, where officials from relevant ministries agreed to coordinate their response, the foreign ministry official said on the condition of anonymity.

   "We will work together on this issue from now on by creating an inter-agency task force led by the Prime Minister's Office," he said.

   The foreign ministry's role in the task force will be to facilitate communication between Japan and relevant agencies here regarding the issue, he added.

   Fears of radiation contamination are mounting here after Japan on Monday started discharging 11,500 tons of low-level radioactive water into the sea to make room for more highly contaminated water at storage facilities in the tsunami-hit nuclear power plant of Fukushima, about 250 kilometers northeast of Tokyo.

   Also, President Lee Myung-bak earlier Wednesday instructed the nation's health and science authorities to painstakingly check the safety of foods imported from the neighboring nation, seeking to calm radiation fear sparked by the damaged Japanese nuclear power plant.

   Lee issued the order during a visit to the headquarters of the Korea Food & Drug Administration in Osong, about 120 kilometers south of Seoul.

   Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced its plan just hours before releasing the water, catching the South Korean government off guard as it had not been warned in advance. The South Korean embassy in Tokyo expressed concern to Japan later that day.

   The government here has since come under fire for lacking a coordinated response, especially as traces of radioactive material have already been detected across the country.

   Responding to the concerns, a Japanese foreign ministry official met with a counselor at the South Korean embassy earlier Wednesday, the ministry official said.

   "The Japanese side explained that it would reconsider releasing the radioactive water (from now on) if contamination levels in surrounding waters exceed the limit," he said, without disclosing the identity of the Japanese official.

   Japan also pledged to "provide information more promptly and freely in the future" as a way of addressing South Korean concerns about not receiving prior notification, he added.

   The Japanese official also denied reports in some South Korean media that the United States was given prior notice, saying South Korea was the first country to receive a separate explanation. (Yonhap News)