Japan on Thursday assured that a planned release of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea will be safe at a meeting of foreign ministers from ASEAN member countries, China and South Korea in the face of concerns from neighboring countries, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

At the gathering of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the three Asian countries, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi made it clear that his country will discharge the water in accordance with international standards and customs, the ministry said.

No participants at the meeting explicitly opposed the plan except for China, which has repeatedly urged Japan not to go through with the discharge.

Hayashi explained the plan citing the International Atomic Energy Agency's assessment report last week and said China's claim is "not based on scientific grounds" in response to Chinese top diplomat Wang Yi, who used the term "contaminated water" instead of "treated water," which the Japanese government uses, a Japanese government official said.

(From R, front) Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin and China's top diplomat Wang Yi attend a foreign ministerial meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Japan, China and South Korea in Jakarta, Indonesia, on July 13, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Japan's Foreign Ministry)(Kyodo)

The meeting came as Japan and China have been at odds over the planned discharge of water, which has gone through a process to remove most of the radionuclides, except tritium, into the Pacific Ocean from the Fukushima plant, crippled by a devastating earthquake and ensuing tsunami in March 2011.

Japan's government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the plant's operator, aim to carry out the plan around the summer.

In a report submitted to the Japanese government on July 4, the IAEA concluded that the plan to release the water aligns with global safety standards and will have "a negligible radiological impact on people and the environment."

Amid improving relations with Japan, South Korea has said that based on its own analysis of Tokyo's proposal, it respects the outcome of the report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, although opposition parties have raised concerns about the move.

Hayashi also said that Japan welcomes a rare statement by ASEAN foreign ministers earlier Thursday that expressed "grave concern" over North Korea firing an intercontinental ballistic missile the previous day, the Japanese ministry said.

As for Russia's protracted war in Ukraine, the Japanese minister strongly condemned it, adding that any attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo by force will not be tolerated anywhere in the world.

The participants also discussed closer cooperation on the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, regional finance and food security, according to the ministry.

ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Last year, the bloc agreed, in principle, to admit East Timor as its 11th member, granting the nation observer status until it joins the bloc.

On Thursday, Hayashi held bilateral meetings in Jakarta with his counterparts from Mongolia, Indonesia and Australia. Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong expressed understanding and support for Japan's stance on the water release, according to the Japanese ministry.

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