Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso repeated his claim Friday that it is safe to drink treated radioactive water accumulating at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after China asked him to personally prove it.
"I'm sure that the water will be diluted so that (the tritium concentration) is one-seventh of the level safe for drinking water under the World Health Organization's guideline," Aso told a press conference, without responding directly to the proposal made by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Wednesday.
Zhao's remark at a news conference came a day after Tokyo officially decided to start releasing the treated water into the sea from the plant in northeastern Japan in two years. Aso said, "I have heard that we will have no harm if we drink" the treated water.
Aso refuted Zhao's criticism that the Pacific Ocean is not "Japan's sewer," countering, "So is it China's sewer? It's everyone's sea."
Aso, a former prime minister who has doubled as finance minister since 2012, has often come under fire for gaffes and controversial statements.
According to the Japanese government's plan, the tritium will be diluted to less than 1,500 becquerels per liter, one-40th of the concentration permitted under Japanese safety standards and one-seventh of the WHO's guideline for drinking water.
In addition to China, South Korea and Taiwan have aired opposition to Japan's decision, arguing that the water will harm the marine environment, food safety and human health.
Meanwhile, three independent UN human rights experts on Thursday expressed deep regret over Japan's recent decision to release treated radioactive water accumulated at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, saying it could impact millions of people across the Pacific region.
A joint statement issued by the three called Tokyo's decision "very concerning" and questioned its claim that the tritium levels in the water stored in tanks at the nuclear plant do not pose a threat to human health.
"The release of one million tons of contaminated water into the marine environment imposes considerable risks to the full enjoyment of human rights of concerned populations in and beyond the borders of Japan," the statement said.
The three special rapporteurs -- Marcos Orellana, Michael Fakhri and David Boyd -- said Japan's decision earlier this week is "particularly disappointing as experts believe alternative solutions to the problem are available."
"We remind Japan of its international obligations to prevent exposure to hazardous substances, to conduct environmental impact assessments of the risks that the discharge of water may have, to prevent transboundary environmental harms, and to protect the marine environment," the statement said.
Tokyo's move to discharge the treated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which was devastated by a massive tsunami following the magnitude-9.0 earthquake in March 2011, drew strong criticism from neighboring countries such as China and South Korea, while the United States showed understanding of the plan and the International Atomic Energy Agency supported it.