Analysis & Comment

Tuesday Briefing: Japan’s Radioactive Water

A radioactive wedge between Japan and South Korea

Japan’s plan to release into the ocean more than 1.3 million tons of ​treated water from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has raised alarms across the​ Pacific. The backlash has been particularly severe in South Korea.

The government of President Yoon Suk Yeol is slugging it out with its political opponents through banners, YouTube videos, news conferences and protests. Critics are accusing Yoon of agreeing to Tokyo’s plan for the sake of improving relations with Japan, South Korea’s historical enemy, and at the behest of the U.S., a strong ally of both nations.

The authorities in Seoul are holding daily briefings to dispel what they call fear-mongering by the opposition and to convince people that the water will do no harm. The uproar is threatening to complicate the progress that the three countries have made in recent months toward building a stronger partnership.

Details: Despite widespread public misgiving, South Korea has endorsed the plan — in which Japan would release the treated water gradually over a 30-year period, after it has been filtered and diluted — asking only that Japan provide transparency about the process.

A date soon: Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited the Fukushima site on Sunday, signaling that the water release date would be announced as early as this week.

China’s weak response to its economic troubles

Stocks in China tumbled and its currency weakened yesterday after the People’s Bank of China announced a smaller-than-expected cut in a key interest rate.

Many investors and economists had been expecting Beijing to act more decisively on interest rates as China faces falling housing prices, weak consumer spending and broad debt troubles.

The central bank shaved only a tenth of a percentage point off the benchmark one-year interest rate used for most corporate loans, with no change at all in the five-year rate used for pricing mortgages.

At the street level, the mood has turned dark, our columnist Li Yuan writes. Consumers and business owners say they feel paralyzed, and a reluctance to spend and borrow is feeding what could become a dangerous cycle.

In related news, China wants to expand the group of BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — seeing it as a way to challenge American power, but the members’ conflicting interests may get in the way.

A rights group accuses the Saudis of killing migrants

A report by Human Rights Watch released yesterday said that border guards in Saudi Arabia had regularly opened fire on African migrants seeking to cross into the kingdom from Yemen. Hundreds of men, women and children have been killed between March 2022 and June.

The guards have beaten the migrants with rocks and bars, forced male migrants to rape women while guards watched and shot detained migrants in their limbs. The shooting of migrants is “widespread and systematic” and could constitute a crime against humanity, the report said.

A Saudi government statement dismissed the report as “unfounded and not based on reliable sources.”


The War in Ukraine

President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Greece as part of a European tour aimed at securing more support in the war against Russia.

An Iranian military delegation visited Russia, underscoring the deepening ties between Moscow and Tehran.

Around the World

President Biden flew to Hawaii to inspect the damage wrought by wildfires that have killed more than 100 people, and meet with survivors.

Lucy Letby, the British nurse convicted of killing seven newborns and trying to kill six others, was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

An establishment leftist and a newcomer from the business world will compete in a runoff presidential election in Ecuador in October.

Bernardo Arévalo, an anticorruption crusader, won Guatemala’s presidency, handing a stunning rebuke to the conservative establishment in the country.

Lawyers for a Palestinian man who was arrested by the Israeli police said officers beat him and imprinted his face with a Star of David.

Authorities in Zambia have arrested 12 people after a plane arrived from Egypt carrying cash, weapons and what looked like gold bars.

Other Big Stories

A Times investigation found an alarming pattern of near misses by airplanes in the skies and on the runways of the U.S. At least 46 close calls involved commercial airlines last month alone.

Caroline Kennedy’s swim in the Pacific waters where her father, John F. Kennedy, survived a wartime ordeal shows how her family legacy informs her diplomatic work.

Spain’s soccer federation chief issued something of an apology after forcefully kissing a Spanish player on the lips during the Women’s World Cup medals ceremony.

A Morning Read

Somewhere along Ukraine’s long front line, a Ukrainian soldier is probably playing the video game World of Tanks.

It might seem like a baffling choice: Why would anybody want to play a violent video game about a tank war in the midst of a brutal war? But it’s a way for these soldiers to cope with the bloodshed around them.


Bringing Orwell to Zimbabwe

George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is acclaimed around the world, including in Zimbabwe, which is holding elections tomorrow. Now, a Shona language translation of the classic is making it resonate on a deeper level.

Shona storytellers have always used fables and allegory, and now Zimbabweans have adopted Orwell’s allegorical tale to comment on the state of politics in the country, said Tinashe Muchuri, a poet and one of the lead translators. “The story can be set anywhere in the world and make sense,” Muchuri said. “Human beings are not different, they act and behave the same when in power.”

Sixteen translators took seven years to create “Chimurenga Chemhuka,” or “Animal Revolution.” The names of the characters have been adapted to Shona and the translation uses local dialects. The pigs speak Manyika, Muchuri said, as Zimbabwe’s revolutionary leaders did, and the sheep bleat in slang.

— Lynsey Chutel, our Briefings writer based in Johannesburg.


Prepare this big and tasty crispy zucchini sandwich.

Read Christine Mangan’s “The Continental Affair,” a Hitchcockian thriller and tangentially a love story.

Choose a backpack that will not make you stand out as a tourist.

Breathe to improve your mood, especially in our increasingly screen-bound lives.

Play the Spelling Bee, the Mini Crossword, Wordle and Sudoku.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you tomorrow. — Justin

P.S. Jeré Longman wrote about traveling the world as a sport reporter.

We welcome your feedback. Send us suggestions at [email protected].

Justin Porter is an editor on the Briefings newsletter team at The Times. More about Justin Porter

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