China and Japan have accused each other of inappropriate behavior after a Chinese government official posted a tweet of an iconic Japanese woodcut manipulated to show nuclear waste dumped into the sea, sparking a new diplomatic row.
Earlier this month, Japan announced it would dump water contaminated by the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea, angering its neighbors. China said the plan was “extremely irresponsible”.
On Monday, Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, tweeted an image of “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” made in the 19th century by artist Hokusai, modified to show green nuclear waste dumped in the sea by two people in Hazmat orange suits from a boat.
In the image, created by a Chinese illustrator, Mount Fuji in the background has been replaced by a cooling tower from a nuclear power plant.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, when asked about the tweet at a press conference on Tuesday, said he would not comment on every tweet “by someone at the press secretary level.”
But he said Japan was filing a “strong protest” and calling for the tweet to be removed through diplomatic channels.
“You asked if I will delete the tweet and apologize. You may have noticed that I pinned the tweet at the top,” Zhao said during a regular press briefing in Beijing on Wednesday.
“The illustration shows the people’s just appeal. It is the Japanese government that must revoke its bad decision and apologize,” Zhao said.
When asked again about the tweet on Wednesday by an opposition MP in the Japanese parliament, Motegi said that “such heartless tweets should not be allowed,” according to Kyodo News.
“Japan did a bad thing, but can’t let others talk about it?” Zhao said.
“The whole world has been protesting for some time now, some Japanese officials are playing stupid and pretending not to hear, yet they get so mad for an illustration.”
The bitter exchange follows Chinese anger over a recent statement by US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who jointly agreed to confront China on a range of issues ranging from Taiwan to Muslim Uyghurs in the region from the far west of China to Xinjiang. .
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