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Cablegate: Container Security: New X-Ray Technology Uncovers Illegal

R 191236Z JUN 08
FM AMCONSUL SAPPORO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0400
INFO AMEMBASSY TOKYO
AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE
AMCONSUL NAGOYA
AMCONSUL NAHA
AMCONSUL FUKUOKA
AMEMBASSY BEIJING
AMCONSUL SAPPORO

UNCLAS SAPPORO 000048

STATE FOR EAP/J

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EWWT EAGR ETRD EFIS ZO
SUBJECT: CONTAINER SECURITY: NEW X-RAY TECHNOLOGY UNCOVERS ILLEGAL
BEEF SHIPMENT AT NORTHERN JAPAN PORT

REF: TOKYO 3266152


On May 22nd, five people in Japan were arrested for their
attempt to smuggle Japanese beef into China. China banned
Japanese beef imports due to the discovery of BSE (bovine
spongiform encephalopathy) in September 2001. In recent years,
as China has become more prosperous, however, the demand for
high-end "Wagyu" beef among wealthy consumers in China has
increased, providing an incentive (and the necessary profit
margins) for illegal trade. In April, Tomakomai Port Customs in
Hokkaido seized a shipment heading to Amoy that contained boxes
of Japanese beef products labeled as frozen crab - uncovered
with the help of new scanning technology and precipitating the
arrests. The Port of Tomakomai is one of the few ports in
Northern Japan that utilizes equipment that is in compliance
with the U.S. freight security initiatives. It apparently works
as intended. END SUMMARY.

A Chinese branch manger of the seafood processing company Fujita
Geihan allegedly helped set up the smuggling route to wealthy
meat lovers in China. Empty boxes marked for frozen crab were
first sent to "Take One", a meat distributing company in Osaka,
and packed with beef. The boxes were then sent back to Fujita
Geihan in Monbetsu (in northeast Hokkaido) and hidden within
containers filled with other boxes that did actually contain
frozen crab. Fujita Geihan and Take One company presidents, the
Chinese branch manager of Fujita Geihan, and two other employees
were investigated and arrested for their alleged involvement in
the deception after the illegal beef was discovered during a
scan of the container at Tomakomai Port, just east of Sapporo.

Smuggling beef in container shipments is just one of the tactics
used to get expensive beef into China. Smugglers have also been
caught carrying Japanese beef in their carry-on bags at the
Kansai International Airport (KIX). After the government of
China formally requested that Japan take the appropriate steps
to prevent travelers from smuggling Japanese beef into China
last December, KIX seized several hundred kilograms of Japanese
beef. Chinese authorities seized a total of three tons of
Japanese beef at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport between
June and November 2007. The government of Japan is now
implementing more rigorous preventative measures to combat beef
smuggling. Interestingly, media reports on the arrests all
included straightforward reference to BSE in Japanese herds as
the reason for Japanese beef being banned. (Usually the
Japanese press focuses on the dangers of beef imported from the
U.S. to Japan.)

Tomakomai Port handles the majority of sea freight within the
Hakodate customs district and was equipped with scanning
technology in 2004. Tomakomai Port still remains the only
facility out of 13 in the district that has x-ray technology and
can scan freight containers. Tomakomai Port's scanning
technology is the type of security measure that the U.S.
security freight initiative (SFI) attempts to build upon by
enhancing governments' capacity to scan containers for nuclear
and radiological materials and to better assess the risk of
inbound containers. Recently, U.S. delegates visited Japan and
participated in a well attended discussion on SFI agreements and
the technology requirements. (See REFTEL.) Although the beef
wasn't weapons grade, this incident demonstrated that the
technology does perform as intended.

WELTON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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