CNN  — 

China announced Thursday it was banning all seafood from Japan in response to Tokyo’s decision to begin releasing treated radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant, dramatically escalating an already tense feud between the two neighbors.

The release is part of a controversial plan that has met fierce objections from many consumers as well as some regional countries, with Beijing leading that criticism.

An aerial view of the Fukushima plant after the start of the release of treated radioactive wastewater in Japan on August 24, 2023.

The start of the release on Thursday afternoon sparked a fiery tirade from China which described the operation as a “selfish and irresponsible act.”

China’s customs department then announced it would stop importing all aquatic products originating from Japan – meaning the ban could potentially limit other oceanic products besides seafood such as sea salt and seaweed.

The move was aimed at preventing “the risk of radioactive contamination of food safety caused by Japan’s Fukushima nuclear contaminated water discharge,” and to protect the health of Chinese consumers, the customs department said in its statement.

Japan has argued throughout the building controversy that discharging the treated water is safe and urgently needed to free up space at the crippled nuclear power plant.

The discharge began 1 p.m. local time (midnight ET), according to state-owned electricity firm Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).