Japan blasts French nuclear-related cartoon

Tokyo, Sep 12 (IANS) The Japanese government Thursday said it will lodge a formal complaint about a cartoon published in a French weekly newspaper depicting sumo wrestlers with extra limbs in front of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Government officials said the satirical caricature was "tasteless" and seemingly aimed at the decision to grant Tokyo the 2020 Summer Olympics amid an ongoing nuclear crisis at the Fukushima complex located 150 km northeast of the capital city, Xinuua reported.

The cartoon, carried in Le Canard Enchaine, a newspaper known for its satirical take on topical issues, shows two emaciated sumo wrestlers - one with three legs, the other with three arms - facing off in a bout with the Fukushima plant in the background.

In the cartoon, a sports announcer states: "Marvellous! Thanks to Fukushima, sumo is now an Olympic sport."

"The report was inappropriate. It is extremely regrettable," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference, adding "this cartoon hurts the feelings of those who suffered through the Great East Japan Earthquake".

In March 2011, an earthquake-triggered tsunami ravaged Japan's northeast and sparked the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 in the Fukushima nuclear plant.

"It is inappropriate and gives a wrong impression of the Fukushima contaminated water issue," Suga added.

Another cartoon comprising a spread in the same French publication shows two people in front of a pool wearing anti-radiation suits and holding Geiger counters.

The cartoon is captioned "There is already a pool in Fukushima for the Olympics" - a reference either to the spent nuclear fuel pools, or pools of contaminated water leaking at the plant.

Suga said Japan would lodge its complaint with Le Canard Enchaine through the French embassy in Tokyo and that the foreign ministry had been directed to "thoroughly explain the situation" to avoid similar incidents.

The satirical cartoons from France come at a time when the global spotlight is firmly trained on Japan with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarding Tokyo the 2020 Summer Olympics, ahead of rival cities Istanbul and Madrid.

The IOC's decision, made Sep 7, favoured Tokyo in part because of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's assurances that the Fukushima crisis has not and will not affect Tokyo and that the Games were in "safe hands".

However, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the crippled nuclear complex, said this week that there were possibly two leaks in tanks storing highly-radioactive water at the facility, with the second leak causing radiation levels to spike from 650 becquerels per litre found near the first leak to 3,200 becquerels per litre of radioactive substances detected at a trench near the second leak.

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