Japan lodged a protest Thursday against a French newspaper for printing cartoons that parodied Tokyo's successful bid to host the 2020 Olympics, including one that showed deformed sumo wrestlers grappling in front of the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the cartoons insulted those affected by Japan's March 2011 nuclear disaster and misrepresented current conditions at the nuclear plant.
A Foreign Ministry official said Japan submitted an official complaint to the Le Canard Enchaine weekly newspaper via the Japanese Embassy in France.
The Prime Minister's Office said chief editor Louis Marie Horeau denied any intention to hurt the feelings of people affected by the nuclear disaster but understood Japan's reaction to the two cartoons. The paper, however, did not apologize, it said.
Recent leaks of radioactive water from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean have triggered international concern.
One of the cartoons published Wednesday shows two sumo wrestlers, each with an extra arm and leg, facing off with the nuclear plant in the background as a pair of spectators in hazmat suits and face masks watches from outside the ring.
The other cartoon shows two people wearing hazmat suits and holding dosimeters standing next to a swimming pool, with a caption saying that Fukushima already has an Olympic-size pool.
Japanese officials have acknowledged that radioactive ground water has been leaking from the plant since soon after the nuclear disaster, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami. Recent leaks from storage tanks holding radioactive water have added to the concerns.
On Thursday, the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., acknowledged that samples of underground water from near a tank where a major leak occurred last month showed high levels of radioactive tritium.
Massive amounts of contaminated water — a combination of water leaking from three damaged reactors and inflows of underground water — have also accumulated inside reactor and turbine basements and threatened to leak into the Pacific.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the International Olympic Committee hours before the Sept. 8 vote to determine the 2020 host that the leaks were under control.
The government has also pledged to become more directly involved in the plant's water management and fund costly projects to contain the leaks.
TEPCO spokesman Noriyuki Imaizumi acknowledged this week that the leaks have not been completely contained by protective fences installed off the coast surrounding the plant.
Experts say radioactivity becomes diluted quickly in the ocean as it spreads offshore and the global environmental impact is negligible.
Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said Wednesday that all fish on the market has been tested for radiation and is safe to consume. Fishing is banned along most of the Fukushima coast, mainly as a precaution rather than because of actual contamination.