Chinese official defends Fukushima nuclear waste caricature amid diplomatic row with Japan

A high-level spat has broken out between Chinese and Japanese officials after an account belonging to a spokesman for Beijing’s foreign ministry posted an image of a woodblock print showing nuclear waste dumped into the sea.

Speaking on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian refused to bow down in the face of Tokyo’s criticism and widespread condemnation in the Japanese press. 

“You asked if I will delete the tweet and apologize. You may have noticed, I have pinned the tweet at the top,” Zhao told gathered reporters at a daily press conference in Beijing. “The illustration shows the righteous call of the people. It is the Japanese government which needs to revoke its wrong decision and apologize,” he added.

The spokesman said that Japanese officials have been playing “deaf and dumb” to the calls of the international community who have been highly critical of Tokyo’s plans to dump more than a million tons of nuclear wastewater from the defunct Fukushima plant into the ocean. 

The controversial tweet, which was posted on Monday, used an image of a traditional woodblock print doctored to show nuclear waste being poured into the sea. The print’s original background of Mount Fuji has been replaced by a nuclear plant.

On Tuesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Tokyo was lodging a “forceful protest” and would, through diplomatic channels, seek the tweet’s removal. According to Kyodo News, Motegi furthered his condemnation on Wednesday as he spoke to lawmakers, noting “such heartless tweets should not be allowed.”

China has been very vocal in its opposition to Japan’s plan to dump the nuclear wastewater into the ocean amid fears the water is still contaminated despite years of treatment. Beijing has pushed for international action, noting, “it is definitely not Japan’s housework. If the nuclear sewage is not polluted, why doesn’t Japan keep it for itself?”  

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The spat comes amid worsening relations between the two Asian powers. While Tokyo’s plans to release supposedly treated nuclear wastewater into the sea within two years have been an area of dispute in recent weeks, Japan’s strengthened alliance with the US has angered Beijing.

On Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry hit out at Japan after its annual foreign policy assessment emphasized concerns over China’s behavior and military activity. Beijing called on Tokyo to establish better relations with its sizeable neighbor. 

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