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Japan urged to resolve weapons issue
( 2003-10-21 01:58) (China Daily)

The Japanese Government should take measures as soon as possible to resolve the issue of the potentially fatal chemical weapons its troops left behind in China during World War II.

Chinese President Hu Jintao (R) shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi prior to their bilateral talks on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Bangkok, October 20, 2003. [Reuters]

President Hu Jintao made the remark Tuesday when meeting Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit.

"The abandoned chemical weapons are still endangering the health and safety of local residents though the war has been over for nearly six decades,'' Hu said.

Koizumi said his government is willing to show sincerity and seriously implement the agreements reached by the two governments over the matter.

One person was killed and another 42 injured after barrels of the abandoned mustard gas were dug up at a construction site in Qiqihar, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, on August 4.

The Japanese Government has decided to offer 300 million yen (US$2.7 million) to China as compensation.

But despite the inducement, the family of the person killed by the leak -- Li Guizhen -- is pressing on with plans to sue the Japanese Government.

Heilongjiang-based lawyer Su Xiangxiang, speaking on behalf of the family, told China Daily: "We will conduct a careful investigation and obtain evidence with (our) Japanese peers later this month.''

Su said the family members of Li, who died on August 21 due to serious burns from the highly toxic gas, will soon initiate legal action in Japan.

Su has represented people who have fallen victim to the abandoned chemicals for years. He said their requests include compensation and apologies from the Japanese Government.

Japan's Kyodo news reported that the country may provide more medical aid to the Chinese victims.

Confirming the information, Yuji Kumamaru, envoy of the Japanese Embassy to China, told China Daily: "Both sides will discuss further medical agreements in connection with the abandoned chemical weapons.''

Days ago, the Japanese Government said it planned to set aside 100 million yen (US$900,000) to deal with August's poisoning. But the Chinese side refused amid dissatisfaction from those affected by the leak.

"The sum of US$2.7 million in compensation is the result of long-term negotiations,'' Su said.

According to Kyodo news, the money will come from Japan's annual "abandoned chemical weapons processing'' and Foreign Ministry budgets.

Yesterday's Youth Daily said Japan has been inactive in relation to the chemicals cleanup, despite its promise to dispose of them under a 1997 international convention.

Historical records show that during the 1937-45 war, the Japanese used chemical weapons more than 2,000 times in China, with the local military and civilian death toll reaching almost 100,000 people.

At the end of the war, approximately 2 million chemical cannon balls and 100 tons of toxic chemicals were left in dozens of provinces.

Yesterday, the two leaders also pledged to promote bilateral ties on the basis of learning lessons from history.

Hu said the two countries should recognize the importance of their strategic links and constantly expand their common interests.

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