Over the past three weeks, a team sent by the Japanese government excavated and retrieved chemical weapons left by Japanese invaders in Sunwu County in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.
The team worked in China from Sept. 5 to 27 in response to a request from the Chinese government, according to a statement released in Beijing Friday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China.
Led by Iwatani Shigeo, director of an abandoned chemical weapons office under the Japanese Cabinet Office, the team uncovered 467 shells including 193 chemical shells, four barrels of chemical toxicant with a net weight of 306.5 kilograms, and 154 toxic canisters. The team also cleaned up 1.8 tons of contaminated soil.
Such chemical weapons and contaminated materials will be sealed and placed in special facilities, and then will be destroyed by Japanese technicians.
The Japanese team received on-site assistance from the Office for Chemical Weapons Abandoned by Japan in China under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China.
When Japan was defeated in 1945, the Japanese invaders abandoned large numbers of chemical weapons in Sunwu, where over 80,000 Japanese soldiers were stationed. In 1954, the county government buried the chemical weapons in a nearby mountain.
In order to reduce risks to public safety and to the environment, the Chinese government repeatedly asked the Japanese government to resolve the problem and retrieve the weapons in a timely manner.
At China's urging, Japan agreed to begin excavation in September 2002. Previously, Japanese teams had been sent to China making preparations in April and July this year. The two sides made thorough preliminary plans and adopted necessary safety precautions.
This issue, a legacy from the Japanese war of aggression in China, constituted a threat to both local residents and the environment. In July 1999, the two governments signed a memorandum on destroying the chemical weapons abandoned in China.
In the memorandum, Japan admitted that large numbers of chemical weapons had been abandoned in China, and promised to destroy them in accordance with the Convention on the Banning of Chemical Weapons.
Currently, on the basis of the memorandum, the two governments are making consultations on some details concerning the early destruction of the abandoned chemical weapons.
The recent excavation is the first step to ensure safety prior to destroying the chemical weapons.
(Xinhua News Agency September 28, 2002)