By Soo-hyang Choi

SEOUL (Reuters) -South Korea will issue a response as soon as possible to the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s approval of Japan’s plan to release treated radioactive water from the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima plant into the ocean, a government official said on Wednesday.

After a two-year review, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Japan’s plans were consistent with global safety standards and would have a “negligible radiological impact to people and the environment”.

Park Ku-yeon, a vice-ministerial official at South Korea’s Office for Government Policy Coordination, said the country respected findings by the IAEA, because it was an internationally recognised organisation.

Seoul would give an assessment of the IAEA’s findings when it announces its own review, Park said.

“The government is doing our best to make the announcement as early as possible,” Park told a briefing.

Although Seoul and Tokyo have taken steps in recent months to mend ties marred by historic disputes, Japan’s plan to release the wastewater remains contentious for its closest neighbour, where some consumers have been snapping up sea salt ahead of the release.

South Korean rival parties clashed over the IAEA findings in parliament on Wednesday, with some opposition lawmakers accusing the IAEA of colluding with Japan to support the discharge plan.

President Yoon Suk Yeol’s ruling party said it respected the findings and warned the lawmakers against levelling groundless accusations toward the agency.

The main opposition Democratic Party, which holds a majority in parliament, threatened to push for a bill to ban any seafood imports from Japan if it releases water without winning approval from neighbouring countries.

South Korea’s Agriculture Minister Chung Hwang-keun said on Tuesday the country will not lift a ban on Japanese food products from the area around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant until public concern over contamination ease.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, now in Japan, will visit South Korea from July 7 to 9 to explain the organisation’s findings on Japan’s planned discharge of water.

(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Additional reporting by Hyonhee ShinEditing by Ed Davies and Gerry Doyle)

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