China state paper blasts Japan over nuclear crisis

BEIJING, April 13, 2011 (AFP) - Japan owes its neighbours an apology for failing to tell them about the severity of its nuclear crisis, a Chinese state newspaper said Wednesday, accusing the West of letting Tokyo off the hook.

The English-language Global Times, which has ties to the ruling Communist party, also rounded on the West for engaging in double standards by treating Japan with kid gloves due to its status as a key US ally.

The government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan "made a mistake in withholding the truth," the Global Times said in a commentary, saying Tokyo had engaged in a "cover-up" of what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi atomic plant.

"The Kan administration owes a serious official apology to neighbouring countries," it said.

Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday asked Kan to "promptly and accurately inform China" about developments in the crisis, state media said, after Tokyo upgraded its emergency to a maximum seven, on a par with the Chernobyl disaster.

Beijing has repeatedly asked that its neighbour be transparent about the impact of the March 11 accident at the facility northeast of Tokyo, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

"Surprisingly, Western governments and media have been mild-mannered toward Japan's misconduct," the Global Times said.

"Had this incident taken place in a country like China, would the US and Europe have shown such tolerance? If the crisis had happened in a Western country, would their media have been so complacent?" it added.

"A nuclear crisis is borderless, and its handling will influence the attitudes of all other nuclear states. Being selfish on a nuclear issue is appalling, and the correction of such selfishness must be swift."

Japan upgraded the emergency on Tuesday to a seven, the top level on the UN's International Nuclear Events Scale (INES). Other experts including those at France's nuclear safety agency had already boosted the rating.

A top-level emergency is defined as a "major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures".

The disaster has sparked concern in China, where low levels of radiation have been detected in the air across the nation and on spinach grown in some parts of the country's north including Beijing.

China's government has consistently stressed that the amounts involved were far too low to pose a health hazard.