Koi Dispute Escalates Tensions Between Japan and China


Souring relations between Japan and China have escalated due to a dispute over koi exports, adding to existing tensions over Fukushima’s treated water release and territorial conflicts.

The Koi Dispute

The strained relations between Japan and China have encountered a new obstacle with the deadlock over koi exports. The dispute arises from China’s failure to renew the pre-export quarantine deal for Japanese koi, effectively ending their import from Japan.

Koi and Their Significance

Koi, also known as nishikigoi in Japan, are prized carp renowned for their vibrant colors and are considered as symbols of good fortune. The fish have gained popularity in Asia, with Japan doubling its koi exports in the past decade. However, following an outbreak of koi herpes virus in Japan in the 2000s, the country imposed a mandatory quarantine for koi exports, including those to China.

Impact of Fukushima’s Treated Water Release

Despite Japan’s safety assurances and IAEA support, China banned Japanese seafood after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant released treated radioactive water. However, the dispute over koi exports seems unrelated to this issue, as the koi are ornamental fish and not typically consumed, unlike seafood caught from the affected Pacific areas.

Japanese Response

Japanese officials have expressed concerns over China’s actions, emphasizing the cultural significance of nishikigoi and highlighting the lack of scientific basis for China’s measures. They have pledged to pursue diplomatic solutions to address the impasse and have urged China to reconsider its position.

Broader Tensions Between Japan and China

The koi dispute adds to the existing tensions between Japan and China, including a longstanding territorial conflict over the East China Sea islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Additionally, Japan views China as a significant security threat and has been strengthening defense partnerships with other Indo-Pacific nations, while seeking to expand its military capabilities.