All Taiwanese bear consequences of referendum vote: Frank Hsieh

Taipei, All Taiwanese must bear the consequences of Saturday's referendum result in favor of maintaining a ban on imports of agricultural and food products from areas in Japan affected by the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in 2011, Taiwan's top envoy to Japan said Thursday.

The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) initiated the referendum, held alongside the local government elections, which asked voters whether they agreed that the government should maintain the ban on imports of agricultural products and food from areas in Japan affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster, namely Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures.

Among the nearly 10 million ballots cast on the question, 78 percent supported the ban, while 22 percent opposed it.

Asked to comment, Frank Hsieh (???), Taiwan's representative to Japan, who returned to Taiwan to attend a Taiwan-Japan trade and economic meeting in Taipei, told reporters that his office respects the result of the referendum.

He also indicated the office will continue to work in accordance with the referendum result.

"That's how democracy works," Hsieh noted.

Asked whether the result could affect Taipei's ties with Tokyo as the Japanese side has repeatedly called on Taiwan to lift the ban, Hsieh said all Taiwanese will have to bear the consequences of the vote together, without further elaboration.

Hsieh did note that Hong Kong has already partially lifted its ban on food imports from the same areas in Japan and that China is expected to follow suit soon.

Once China partially lifts its ban, Taiwan will be the only country in the world to have a full ban on all food imports from the five Japanese prefectures affected by radioactive fallout from the March 11, 2011 disaster.

In a statement Sunday, Japan's top envoy to Taiwan Mikio Numata said the issue had been "politicized" and called on Taiwan and Japan to work together to avoid hurting cordial bilateral ties and economic exchanges.

"We will continue to do our best to convince our friends in Taiwan of the safety of Japanese food products and we sincerely hope the ban will be lifted soon," Numata said.

In response, MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee (???) said the ministry will cautiously engage in talks with Japan over the referendum result to seek their understanding and ensure bilateral relations are not impacted.

Thursday's closed-door meeting was kicked off at the Ambassador Hotel in Taipei by Chiou I-jen (???), head of the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association (TJRA), and Mitsuo Ohashi (????), chairman of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association (JTEA).

Both men will lead delegations from their respective countries in discussions on a wide range of economic and trade issues during the meeting, which concludes Friday morning.

Taiwan is expected to express its interest in joining the Japan-led Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Meanwhile, Japan is likely to again voice its hope that Taiwan will lift the food ban.

The ban on food products from radiation-contaminated areas of Japan was imposed in 2011 by the then-KMT government and tightened in 2015 after products from some of the listed Japanese prefectures were found on store shelves in Taiwan.

Since the Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2016, it has been considering lifting the ban on food imports from all the affected prefectures except Fukushima, but has run into strong public opposition to the idea.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel