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Japanese chemical weapon container found
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-25 22:15

Another chemical weapon container left by Japan's invading army during World War II was found in Northeast China on Monday.

No injuries have so far been reported.

The incident occurred in the city of Qiqihar, where a similar leak of Japanese wartime mustard gas last August killed one person and injured 42.

An iron barrel was dug up at about 4 pm while construction operations were under way at a food plant owned by the No. 4 Non-Staple Food Shop in the Fular area, according to a city government report released Tuesday afternoon.

Police responded to the incident at about 6 pm on Monday, after officials said a a cylinder with pungent smell was found at a construction site, though there was no liquid inside.

The cylinder was suspected to have contained mustard gas, one of Japanese army's major chemical weapons in the early 1940s.

Municipal government leaders and other government department officials rushed to the site to deal with the incident.

The area was blocked off immediately, and all vehicles and personnel that might have contacts with the toxic gas were examined.

Eight people, including a driver, were rushed to a hospital for medical checkups. No symptoms of poisoning appeared on the individuals after 12 hours of observation, the government report said.

Chemical weapons experts confirmed mustard gas was in the container left by Japanese troops.

The barrel was sealed up and sent to a special local storehouse for left-over Japanese chemical weapons.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao expressed Chinese concerns over the incident Tuesday.

"We will watch the issue closely," Liu said in Beijing.

In August 2003, 44 people were poisoned by abandoned Japanese mustard gas in the city. One person died.

Although the Japanese Government has paid about 300 million yen (US$2.74 million) for medical and other expenses, the victims still decided to file a lawsuit to seek a formal state apology.

It is estimated Japanese troops have left more than 2 million chemical bombs in at least 17 provinces in China. The Japanese Government believes the number of abandoned weapons is 700,000.

The two governments are working together for the complete destruction of Japanese-abandoned chemical weapons in China by 2007, as specified in a 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention and a later memorandum.

Liu Tuesday also commented on the issue of the use of forced labour in World War II. A Japanese high court this week overturned an earlier damage award given to Chinese forced into virtual slavery during the war.

He said forcing Chinese citizens into hard labour was one of the most severe crimes Japanese militarists had committed.

"The Japanese side should take a responsible and serious attitude towards history, and properly handle the problems such as the forced labour issue that were left over from the past," said Liu.

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