Japan's Germ Warfare Effort Unmasked

The recent discovery of more than 1,200 miscellaneous wartime objects in Northeast China stands as powerful evidence that Japan was pursuing germ warfare experiments during its invasion of China in 1930s and 1940s, according to experts.

The collection of military gear, which includes gas masks, bacteria bombs, injectors and a high-pressure boiler, was found at the site occupied by Unit 731, one of Japan's key germ warfare units, during the War of Resistance Against Japan.

According to historians, Japanese army Unit 731 specialized in bacteria research. In 1935, the army set up a bacteria experiment plant and used local residents as human test subjects.

The site is located in a district of Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang Province.

Jin Chengmin, one of the chief researchers who made the discovery, said yesterday that the gas masks, bombs and other gear will be permanently open for public viewing beginning on Tuesday.

"All we need is the truth and nothing but the truth. That is the only way to pay tribute to those who were killed or hurt by the germ warfare," Jin said.

At least 270,000 Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed as a result of Japanese germ warfare between 1933 and 1945, according to an in-depth study by Chinese and Japanese scholars. The Chinese prisoners were deliberately exposed to a number of deadly diseases including typhoid, cholera and anthrax, the scholars claimed.

Jin, one of the leading experts on Japan's invasion of China, claimed it was difficult to determine a real death toll in the Unit 731 case because Japan's military headquarters ordered its units in China to destroy evidence of biological warfare as early as August 9, 1945.

According to Jin, Japan knitted a comprehensive biological warfare network in China that included bases in Beijing, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Harbin.

Japan acknowledged several years ago that Unit 731 had existed, but the government denies the unit killed prisoners and has refused to apologize.

Over the past decade, scholars from China, Japan and the US have been engaged in extensive studies of Japanese germ warfare.

Shoji Kondo, a TV journalist who began to study Japanese germ warfare in 1976, urged the Japanese Government and leaders to apologize to the Chinese of the war crimes.

"It (apology) should be done before all the victims and their relatives die," Kondo said during his recent trip to China.

A group of 180 Chinese civilians have filed lawsuits in Tokyo District Court since February 1998, calling for apologies and compensation for the deaths of relatives who they claim were victims of Japanese germ warfare. Expressing his support for the plaintiffs, Jin Chengmin said research work will continue at the Unit 731 site.

"We will continue to hunt for proof, even though Japan has tried to cover up the facts and revised its history textbook to whitewash the crimes," Jin said.

(China Daily 06/08/2001)

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