Japan expressed its deep concern on Monday regarding a series of vexatious phone calls, suspected to have originated from China, following the discharge of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.
In response, the Chinese embassy in Tokyo confirmed that it had been facing a similar situation of nuisance calls from Japan.
This exchange of phone-based provocations followed Japan’s commencement of water release on Thursday as a crucial phase towards decommissioning the Fukushima plant.
The plant had suffered severe damage from triple meltdowns triggered by a tsunami in 2011, marking the most catastrophic nuclear incident since the Chernobyl disaster 25 years prior.
Hirokazu Matsuno, Chief Cabinet Secretary, condemned the alleged harassment calls, labeling them as “extremely regrettable.”
He expressed concerns during a regular news briefing, underscoring the diplomatic tensions it could evoke.
In response to the calls, Japan’s vice foreign minister, Masataka Okano, summoned the Chinese ambassador to address the matter.
China’s foreign ministry, however, stated their lack of awareness about the situation during a scheduled briefing, despite the Chinese embassy in Tokyo asserting that it had lodged formal complaints with Japan.
The embassy reported disruptions to their regular operations due to a high volume of calls.
Furthermore, Japanese facilities in China reportedly faced similar disturbances, compelling Japan’s foreign ministry to call for safeguarding the well-being of Japanese citizens residing in China.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida asserted that the Japanese government had strongly urged Beijing to ensure its citizens acted responsibly, especially after instances of stone-throwing were reported at a Japanese school and embassy.
The controversy extended to phone calls, with Fukushima city hall inundated by over 200 calls in a single day, attributed to China’s country code.
Similar calls were reported at schools and other establishments in the region, reflecting the widespread nature of the issue.
Japanese restaurant chains also found themselves targeted, prompting concerns about the safety of their employees and patrons.
Meanwhile, in China, a Japanese school faced an instance of aggression, and the Chinese foreign ministry defended its commitment to protecting foreigners.
The radioactive water release had seen Japan’s efforts to filter and purify contaminated water, removing most isotopes while retaining tritium.
China remained skeptical of Japan’s assurance of safety, leading to a blanket ban on aquatic imports from Japan.
As the situation continued to unfold, the episode raised diplomatic concerns between the two nations and highlighted the potential impact of environmental incidents on international relations.