A Japanese court on Monday ruled compensation demand by 13 Chinese nationals for damage caused to their health by chemical weapons left over in China by Japanese invading troops during World War II.
The Tokyo District Court ruled the Japanese government should pay in compensation around 190 million yen (US$1.7 million) to these victims.
In the ruling, presiding judge Yoshihiro Katayama said it is possible for the Japanese government to provide the Chinese government with information about the abandoned chemical weapons so as to realize an early and appropriate disposal.
He said it is "against the notion of justice and fairness" to reject the compensation claim on the ground that some of the claims were raised after the due 20-year period for filing lawsuit. The same court also turned down certain claims by Chinese victims in May, saying it is impossible for the Japanese government to collect the abandoned weapons in a foreign country.
The lawsuits, brought up in 1996, involve leakage of toxical chemical agent and shell explosion from 1974 to 1995.
The ruling "got back the justice for the Chinese, got back the justice for the victims," said 59-year-old Li Chen. He and three colleagues were hurt by mustard gas leaking from a shell which was found in the course of dredging in October 1974 in China's northern Heilongjiang Province.
Liu Min, 27, said, "I am grateful to Chinese and Japanese lawyers for their persisting efforts over the past eight years. I hope the Japanese government can pay attention to the issue of abandoned chemical weapons and dispose of them appropriately to avoid further similar tragedies."
Her father was seriously injured after trying to dismantle a remaining Japanese shell in August 1995, and died later.
Japan left about 700,000 chemical weapons in China at the end of World War II in 1945, and promised to dispose of them under a 1997 international convention.
In a latest case, the fatal leakage from abandoned Japanese chemical weapons killed one and injured 42 others when barrels of mustard gas were dug up at a construction site in August in the city of Qiqihar, Heilongjiang Province.
The event triggered Chinese people's protests and demands for Japanese compensation.
(Xinhua News Agency September 30, 2003)