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Japan thanks South Korea for past Fukushima support amid tensions

Japan marked the 10th anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster Thursday, while In Seoul, Japan’s ambassador thanked South Koreans for their past support. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
Japan marked the 10th anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster Thursday, while In Seoul, Japan’s ambassador thanked South Koreans for their past support. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

March 11 (UPI) -- Japan's top envoy to South Korea thanked Seoul for past assistance on the 10th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, while also expressing "regret" for South Korean restrictions against Japanese food products.

Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Koichi Aiboshi said Thursday at a ceremony in Seoul that South Koreans offered a "diverse range of support" to Japan in the aftermath of the deadly Tohoku earthquake that claimed more than 15,000 lives and led to a long-term nuclear waste crisis in Fukushima.

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"When we were in deep sorrow and pain, the [South Korean people] gave us plenty of warmth and support," Aiboshi said, according to South Korean news service Newsis.

The Japanese diplomat said Seoul's Korea Rescue Team was "one of the first" to respond to the disaster, and the South Korean Red Cross sent donations.

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"Banners cheering Japan were hung on Korean streets, reinforcing [Japanese determination]," in the face of the disaster, Aiboshi said, adding, "A friend in need is a friend, indeed."

The Japanese envoy, who arrived in Seoul earlier this year, also said Japan's food inspections are being held to the highest standards, and that 39 out of 54 countries that had banned Japanese food imports in the aftermath of Fukushima have resumed trade.

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"Unfortunately, import regulations are still in place in Korea," Aiboshi said.

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South Korea's foreign ministry has reached out to Tokyo on the anniversary.

South Korean television network MBC reported Thursday that Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong sent a "letter of consolation" to his Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi.

Chung said Japan set an example in disaster recovery, and that the South Korean people at the time "lent Japan sincere support, and empathized with the people of Japan" in difficult times.

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Relations between Japan and South Korea have been hurt by tensions over history, trade and territorial claims. Japan has disagreed with South Korea over compensation for "comfort women" forced to serve in Japanese wartime brothels and Korean wartime laborers.

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