SEOUL/BEIJING - China, South Korea and Taiwan on Tuesday expressed opposition to Japan's decision to release into the sea treated radioactive water that has accumulated at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, with Beijing calling the move "extremely irresponsible."
China's Foreign Ministry in a statement said Japan had made the decision "unilaterally," saying that releasing the water would "hurt the interest of the people in neighboring countries."
Tokyo "should not arbitrarily start to release (the water) until it reaches an agreement with related countries and the international community," the ministry added, suggesting China could take measures against Japan's move.
Koo Yun Cheol, South Korea's minister for government policy coordination, said Seoul "firmly opposes" the Japanese plan, while Taiwan's Atomic Energy Council said legislators and others on the self-ruled island have opposed it.
Meanwhile, the United States showed understanding of the Japanese plan, saying shortly after the Japanese announcement that Tokyo's decision-making process was "transparent."
"We thank Japan for its transparent efforts in its decision to dispose of the treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi site," Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted, adding that the United States looks forward to Japan's continued coordination with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The strong reactions from some of Japan's neighbors followed the Japanese government's decision earlier in the day to start discharging the water into the Pacific in around two years' time despite worries among domestic fishermen and neighboring countries.
Koo, the South Korean official, made the remark at the outset of an emergency meeting of related ministries held to discuss responses to the Japanese decision. He later told reporters that Seoul finds the decision highly regrettable.
"The decision...was a unilateral move made without enough discussion or understanding from us, South Korea, which is the closest country geographically," Koo said at a press briefing, adding that South Koreans including lawmakers and civic groups are also strongly opposed to it.
"The government will never tolerate any actions that could be harmful to our people's health," Koo added.
In the capital Seoul, several civic groups held a rally against Japan's decision, calling on Tokyo to scrap the plan. "The sea is not a trash can. The Japanese government has no right at all to dirty the waters," said one member of a group at the rally.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price emphasized in a press release that Japan has worked closely with the U.N. nuclear watchdog to manage the aftermath of the accident triggered by a massive quake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan 10 years ago, including over cleanup efforts.
Noting that the United States is aware that the Japanese government examined several options related to the management of the processed water, Price said Japan has been "transparent about its decision" and "appears to have adopted an approach in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards."
The Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered core meltdowns in the wake of the March 2011 multiple disasters. Massive amounts of radioactive water have been generated in the process of cooling melted reactor fuel.
The water is treated at a processing facility on the premises to remove most contaminants but the process cannot remove tritium, a radioactive byproduct of nuclear reactors. The treated water, stored in tanks, has been building up, with storage capacity expected to run out from around fall next year.