Japan's toxic legacy remains
( 2003-08-11 08:49) (China Daily)
History is about more than events, their causes and effects. It is also about owning up to and taking responsibility for what happens.
The atrocities the Japanese army perpetrated in China during World War II left scars on the mind of the nation that are still visible in some part of the country.
On August 4, 36 Chinese were exposed to toxic chemicals, left by Japanese invaders during the war, at a construction site in Qiqihar, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.
This is not the first time that abandoned Japanese chemical weapons have damaged the health of Chinese citizens after the war.
The Japanese side is inescapably responsible for this legacy of its wartime history.
Investigations show the Japanese army launched at least 36 large-scale bacterial and chemical offensives across China from 1931 to 1945, causing enormous casualties among the Chinese people.
Japan should accept its political, moral and legal obligations for China's losses in accordance with documents such as the China-Japan Joint Declaration and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction.
In May, the Tokyo District Court ruled against Chinese plaintiffs on the grounds that the Japanese Government was not liable to compensate Chinese people made ill by exposure to abandoned Japanese chemical weapons.
The decision was no less than an affront to the victims of the accident as well as to international laws. The denial of the victims' right to damages is unfair.
The Japanese Government cannot make up for its war crimes merely through verbal apologies and compensation.
The country must also do some serious soul-searching and rethink its history to win the trust of its victimized neighbours.
Japan has done little compared with other nations, such as Germany, to accept its own historical responsibilities.
The disposal of Japanese chemical weapons left in China is about to reach a decisive stage, with the help of Chinese authorities.
Japan should make sure the arms are disposed of safely as soon as possible.
Only by facing its history squarely can Japan start to heal the wounds of the
neighbours it attacked as well as its own people.
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