China Accuses Japan of 'Playing Deaf and Dumb' on Plan to Release Radioactive Water in Ocean

China accused Japanese officials of "playing deaf and dumb" over its plan to release radioactive water into the Pacific from its damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant for the next two years, according to the Associated Press.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian ridiculed Japan's apparent money-saving decision at a Wednesday press conference, calling it "extremely responsible" and saying that Japan should listen to worldwide protests about the "highly hazardous" water.

"Certain Japanese officials have been playing deaf and dumb. Then why are they so angry about this image?" Zhao said. "The Japanese side should recognize its responsibility, fulfill its international obligations and revoke its wrong decision."

Japan's decision to release the radioactive water into the ocean has been expected but was delayed by protests and worries over safety, according to the AP. Fishermen, Japanese residents and neighboring countries strongly oppose releasing the harmful water.

In 2011, an earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan damaged the Fukushima power plant. Since then, water has been used to cool melted fuel. However, the water's storage area would overflow by 2022, which led Japanese officials to make their controversial decision on release into the ocean.

"From the day of discharge, the contaminated water would affect all Pacific Rim countries for decades, and the radioactive materials would harm the global marine environment for several thousand years," Zhao said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Chinese Foreign Ministry Apokesman Zhao Lijian
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian at the daily media briefing in Beijing on April 8, 2020. Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

China renewed its criticism on Wednesday of Japan's decision to release treated radioactive water.

Zhao also rejected Japanese complaints over a tweet he earlier sent criticizing Japan's decision with a picture of a famous Japanese print of a massive wave, saying it was hypocritical of Japan not to allow others to criticize when it had failed to consider the concerns of its neighbors.

Also Wednesday, Japan said its military has raised caution levels around uninhabited East China Sea islands that it controls but are also claimed by Beijing after six Chinese warships passed near the area and a reconnaissance helicopter flew toward it.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters that the Maritime Self-Defense Force confirmed that a Chinese fleet of six warships led by the aircraft carrier Liaoning and including guided missile destroyers and a frigate sailed northward between Okinawa and the nearby island of Miyako to enter the East China Sea.

On Tuesday, the Japanese navy spotted a Chinese helicopter that took off from the Liaoning and flew within 50 to 100 kilometers (30 to 60 miles) of the islands, prompting Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets to scramble, Kato said.

The islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are also claimed by Taiwan. While relations have been relatively calm recently, many Chinese remain deeply resentful of Japan's past invasion and occupation of China and expect their government to take a tough line against Tokyo.

There was no violation of Japanese airspace or territorial waters, Kato said.

It is the second time this month the fleet was seen passing the area while traveling between the Pacific and the East China Sea, according to Japanese reports.