TOKYO-Japan will release water from the stricken Fukushima power plant into the Pacific Ocean from Thursday, 12 years after one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters. China, which has already partially halted Japanese food shipments, sharply criticised the announcement, while Hong Kong and Macau said they would ban the import of “aquatic products” from 10 Japanese regions, with the latter also banning vegetable and dairy imports. Japan insists that the gradual discharge of the more than 500 Olympic swimming pools’ worth of water from the site in northeast Japan, announced by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday, is safe. The Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station was knocked out by a massive earthquake and tsunami that killed around 18,000 people in March 2011, sending three of its reactors into meltdown. Operator TEPCO has since collected 1.34 million tonnes of water used to cool what remains of the still highly radioactive reactors, mixed with groundwater and rain that has seeped in. TEPCO says the water will be diluted and filtered before release to remove all radioactive substances except tritium, levels of which are far below dangerous levels. It has failed to reassure China, which said it would take “necessary measures to safeguard the marine environment, food safety and public health”.