TOKYO — Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita said Monday that Japan won't comply with foreign demands calling for liberalization of rice imports.
It was the first time Takeshita publicly declared his opposition to lifting a ban on importing foreign rice since becoming prime minister last November.
"It is natural for us to uphold the objectives of" a Diet resolution calling for improvements in self-sufficiency in food, including rice, Takeshita said during a session of the lower house Budget Committee.
Both houses of Japan's Diet unanimously adopted a resolution against the lifting of a rice import ban in 1980 and 1984.
The Japanese government purchases almost all rice produced by farmers at several times higher than an international price and then sells it to consumers, through retail shops, for somewhat lower prices.
The nation's ban on rice imports has become an issue between Japan and the United States, which says Japan has an obligation to place its rice program on the negotiating table. Japan had a trade surplus of $59.8 billion last year with the United States.
Japanese farmers, agricultural organizations and some government officials argue that opening up the country's rice market would not only harm farmers but endanger Japan's food security.