By Sakura Murakami
TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan called on China to approach the release of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in a “scientific manner” at a meeting held between Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Chinese top diplomat Wang Yi on Friday.
In a move that has caused alarm among neighbouring countries and local fishermen, Japan is set to start releasing more than 1 million tonnes of water from the wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant this summer. China has emerged as the most vocal of those critics, saying the plan would endanger the environment and human lives.
At a meeting with Wang on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Indonesia, Hayashi said Japan was willing to communicate with China about the water discharge from a scientific perspective, according to the Japanese foreign ministry.
“(Hayashi) called on China to respond in a scientific manner,” it said in a statement.
Wang, in turn, asked Japan to “face up” to legitimate concerns of all sides, “sincerely” communicate with its neighbours and be “prudent” in handling the situation.
“This is as much an issue about attitude as it is about science,” China’s official Xinhua news agency cited Wang as saying.
The issue of the water release took up a substantive amount of the hour-long talk between Wang and Hayashi, but the two did not come to a clear agreement on the matter, a Japanese foreign ministry official told reporters later on Friday.
Although China has raised concerns about the water discharge, a comprehensive review of the plan by the United Nations nuclear watchdog has said that the impact would be “negligible” and that the discharge would be in accordance with international standards.
The Japanese government says the water has been filtered to remove most radioactive elements except for tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that is hard to separate from water. The treated water will be diluted to well below internationally approved levels of tritium before being released into the Pacific.
Hayashi defended the plan at an ASEAN meeting on Thursday and asserted that China was making “claims not rooted in scientific evidence”, according to Japan’s foreign ministry.
Relations between the two countries have also become tense as China asserts its maritime ambitions in the region, which Hayashi touched on during his meeting with Wang.
Hayashi “conveyed strong concerns over China’s increasing military activity conducted within the vicinity of Japan” as well as Chinese military cooperation with Russia, according to the statement.
Wang said he hoped Japan could be “objective and rational” towards China, and not position it as a threat.
“Japan has identified China as the biggest strategic challenge and rendered China as a threat, which is seriously inconsistent with the reality of China-Japan relations,” he said, adding that Beijing was open to maintaining contacts with Japan at all levels.
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Additional reporting by Ethan Wang in Beijing; editing by Himani Sarkar, Michael Perry, Mark Heinrich and Alex Richardson)
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