China has asked Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso to drink treated radioactive water from Fukushima to prove his claim that it is safe to drink.
The accumulating water has been stored in tanks at the plant since 2011, when a massive earthquake and tsunami damaged its reactors and their cooling water became contaminated and began leaking.
'A Japanese official said it is okay if we drink this water, so then please drink it,' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijan said at a press conference on Wednesday.
During the event, Zhao described what he saw as Japan's ignorance of the ecological environment as 'totally unjustifiable'.
On Tuesday, Japan announced plans to release the water into the sea. The controversial decision came after more than seven years of discussion on what to do with the water.
The plant's storage capacity will be reached late next year.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Aso said 'I have heard that we will have no harm if we drink' the water.
China has asked Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso to drink treated radioactive water from Fukushima to prove his claim that it is safe to drink. The comments came as Tokyo has said it will release the water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean in two years time. Pictured: Jinbo party members protest against the decision outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday
The former prime minister has regularly made controversial remarks since becoming both deputy prime minister and finance minister in 2012, Japanese daily The Mainichi reported.
At the Chinese press conference on Wednesday, Zhao urged the Japanese government 'not to forget the historical tragedy' of thousands of people who became affected by what is now known as Minamata disease.
The condition, which paralyzes the central nervous system and produces birth defects, was caused by mercury-tainted water that was dumped into the sea by a Chisso Corp chemical plant in southwestern Japan from 1932 to 1968.
'Japan's Minamata disease happened not far away and the pain of the local victims has yet to be healed,' Zhao said.
Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso told a press conference on Tuesday: 'I have heard that we will have no harm if we drink' the water from Fukushima [File photo]
Zhao also urged Japan not to proceed with releasing the water into the ocean 'without permission' from other countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
China is joined by South Korea and Taiwan in opposing Japan's decision, arguing that the water would harm the marine environment as well as risking food safety and human health.
Japan has pointed out that several other countries operating nuclear power plants - including China and South Korea - have themselves released treated radioactive water from reactors into the environment.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the ocean release was the most realistic option and that disposing the water is needed to complete the decades-long decommissioning of the Fukushima plant.
'A Japanese official said it is okay if we drink this water, so then please drink it,' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijan (pictured) said at a press conference on Wednesday [File photo]
He said the government would work to make sure the water is safe and to help local agriculture, fisheries and tourism.
The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), and government officials say tritium, which is not harmful in small amounts, cannot be removed from the water, but all other selected radionuclides can be reduced to releasable levels.
Some scientists say the long-term impact on marine life from low-dose exposure to such large volumes of water is unknown.
Residents, fisheries officials and environmental groups issued statements denouncing the decision as ignoring environmental safety and health, and further hurting Fukushima's image and economy.
The accumulating water has been stored in tanks at the plant since 2011, when a massive earthquake and tsunami damaged its reactors and their cooling water became contaminated and began leaking. Pictured: The tanks storing the accumulated water at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant [File photo]