China's Foreign Ministry spokesman has drawn criticism for using a parody picture of a "ukiyo-e" work by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai to take a jab at Japan's decision to release treated radioactive water at the Fukushima power plant.

On Monday, Zhao Lijian posted his Twitter account a collage picture of a piece in the popular "Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji" series by the ukiyo-e master during the Edo Period (1603-1868), irking Japanese government officials.

"If Katsushika Hokusai, the original author is still alive today, he would also be very concerned about #JapanNuclearWater," Zhao, known as one of Beijing's hardline diplomats, said in his Twitter post, along with the picture.

Japan's Foreign Ministry has lodged a protest with China over Zhao's post that insults Japanese culture, while calling for the deletion of it, sources familiar with the matter said. But the picture remained viewable online as of Tuesday night.

Supplied image shows a parody picture of a "ukiyo-e" painting by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, posted by China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on his Twitter account. (Kyodo)

The parody picture, believed to be collaged by a Chinese illustrator, depicts a person who wears an orange protective suit on a boat pouring deep green liquid from a bucket into the sea. Mt. Fuji is also replaced by what appears to be a nuclear power plant.

In the past, Zhao came under fire from some other countries after he tweeted that the novel coronavirus was brought by the U.S. army to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the original epicenter of the pandemic.

On April 13, Japan decided to begin releasing the treated water into the sea from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in two years, a major development after years of discussions on how to deal with the water used to cool down melted fuel there.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian attends a press conference in Beijing on March 19, 2021. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

In addition to China, Japan's neighbors, South Korea and Taiwan, have expressed opposition to the nation's latest decision, claiming that the treated water would hurt the marine environment, food safety and human health.

Japanese officials, meanwhile, argues other countries operating nuclear power plants, such as China and South Korea, have released treated radioactive water from reactors there into the environment.

Twitter cannot be seen in China without using virtual private networks.