Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has ordered his fisheries minister to apologise for referring to treated radioactive water being released from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant as "contaminated" and told him to retract his remark.
Fisheries minister Tetsuro Nomura was heard calling the treated radioactive water "contaminated" when speaking to reporters following a meeting with Kishida.
He said his discussions with the premier involved "the evaluation of the contaminated water" after its release into the Pacific.
Reuters reports Nomura later apologised and retracted the comment but said he would not resign over it.
Japan is calling the water it is releasing into the ocean "ALPS treated water" to differentiate it from the contaminated water held in tanks around the wrecked plant site.
ALPS stands for "Advanced Liquid Processing System", a system aimed at removing most radioactive elements from the water except for tritium before it is released into the ocean as "treated" water.
"It's deeply disappointing that he made such a remark. I've instructed Minister Nomura to issue an apology as well as retract what he said," Kishida said on Thursday.
Because tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, is difficult to separate from water, the Fukushima wastewater is diluted until tritium levels fall below regulatory limits.
Japan's fisheries agency said tests of fish from near the plant on Saturday found no detectable levels of tritium.
PM eats 'safe' Fukushima fish
The day before, Fumio Kishida ate what he called "safe" fish from Fukushima.
The release of a video clip showing Kishida eating Fukushima fish, published on social media by his office, comes after China banned all seafood imports from its neighbour following the discharge that began on August 24.
"This is very good," Kishida said as he chewed on a slice of flounder sashimi.
Japanese media reports the clip, overlaid by cheery music, showed the conservative leader joined by three other ministers at his office for sashimi, boiled pork, fruits, rice and vegetables from the Fukushima region.
It was designed to promote products from the area 12 years after Fukushima was devastated by a huge earthquake and tsunami that triggered one of the world's worst nuclear disasters.
Even before the wastewater release, many in Japan's fishing industry were worried about what it would do to the reputation of the country's seafood domestically and abroad.
Bricks and eggs have been thrown at Japanese schools and consulates in China, and Tokyo has advised its nationals in the country to keep a low profile.
- Reuters/Japan Times