Japan’s unilateral decision to release wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in 2011, sparked reactions from its neighbouring countries.
Japan announced this week its decision to release more than 1 million tonnes of radioactive water into the sea from the Fukushima nuclear plant that was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
The plan will be executed in about two years after the contaminated water is filtered to remove harmful isotopes.
Japan's plan drew immediate criticism from its neighbours South Korea, China and Taiwan.
South Korea reacted by strongly protesting the decision and summoning Tokyo's ambassador in Seoul, Koichi Aiboshi, and convening an intra-agency emergency meeting.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in called authorities to look into ways to refer Japan's move to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, his spokesman Kang Min-seok said in a briefing.
"I cannot but say that there are many concerns here about the decision as a country that is geologically closest and shares the sea with Japan," Moon said.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said it shared "strong regret and serious concerns" about the release of the water.
In addition, a number of people in Seoul rallied on Friday to demonstrate their anger.
Merchants from the Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market held a press conference in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to condemn the unilateral decision by the Japanese government.
The group said the release of wastewater will definitely hurt all individuals in the fisheries industry. Seoul People’s Action joined in with the protests.
“Why should the whole earth suffer a disaster due to the Japanese government’s economical disposal of radioactive contaminants?” the organisation asked.
“The (Fukushima water discharge) decision was made only three days before the US-Japan summit. Therefore, it can be speculated that there was an advance discussion between the two sides and the US is siding with Japan for its own interests,” it added.
It wasn’t just South Korea. China also expressed its concerns over the unilateral decision to discharge the wastewater.
On Thursday, China summoned Japan's ambassador in protest over the plan, and said it would assess possible safety threats to food and agricultural products.
“We will closely follow the development of the situation and assess possible threats posed to the safety of related food and agricultural products and their trade, to ensure the safety of Chinese consumers," Ministry of Commerce spokesman, Gao Feng, said at a press conference on Thursday.
The Chinese foreign ministry expressed its firm opposition, saying the Japanese plan disregarded the marine environment and the safety of people in neighbouring countries.
"The ocean is not Japan's rubbish bin, the Pacific Ocean is not Japan's sewers," said Zhao Lijian, a spokesman at the Chinese foreign ministry.
Furthermore Zhao asked Japanese officials, “why don't they drink, cook & wash clothes with the water first?"
Japanese politicians said treated wasterwater is "innocent", why don't they drink, cook & wash clothes with the water first? They should guarantee sea food won't be contaminated; accept the advice of IAEA and set up a technical working group with China and ROK to make assessment. pic.twitter.com/6OvsQP9UaD— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) April 15, 2021
A group of human rights experts from the United Nations expressed their own concerns.
"The release of one million tonnes of contaminated water into the marine environment imposes considerable risks to the full enjoyment of human rights of concerned populations in and beyond the borders of Japan," said experts from the Human Rights Council.
"The government's decision is very concerning given the warnings about the effect of such a discharge on so many people's lives and the environment at large," they added.
Experts said the revelation of the contested plan "is particularly disappointing" as they believe alternative solutions to the problem are available.