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WWII Weapons Recovery Teams Finish Task

A three-week effort to remove buried chemical and explosive weapons abandoned by Japanese troops at the end of World War II ended on Monday.

Most of the 2,000 devices found at the 13,400-square-meter site in Ningan, Heilongjiang Province, were grenades, land mines and ordinary shells, Kyodo News Service quoted Japans Abandoned Chemical Weapons Office as saying.

So far, 67 have been confirmed as chemical weapons, and another 22 are suspected.

The retrieval process began early this month. A group of 32 Japanese experts were dispatched to Ningan; China sent more than 100 experts to assist in the operation.

The Kyodo report indicates that the Japanese team originally expected to find only about 700 weapons at the site.

Since the site is close to a residential community of about 1,400 people, strict safety precautions were taken to prevent detonation of explosives or contamination from chemicals. The weapons have been sealed and placed in a temporary storage facility in Ningan to be destroyed at a later date.

Chemical weapons are a long-standing issue between China and Japan.

On July 30, 1999, China and Japan signed a memorandum to destroy all chemical weapons left by Japan in China. In that agreement, the Japanese government acknowledged that its troops had abandoned chemical weapons in China and promised to carry out its obligations under the Convention on the Banning of Chemical Weapons (CWC).

According to CWC, to which both China and Japan are signatory states, all chemical weapons should be destroyed by 2007.

Bu Ping, a scholar from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and a researcher on chemical weapons left by the Japanese, estimates that Japanese troops abandoned over 2 million chemical weapons in a dozen Chinese cities and provinces at the end of World War II.

In June this year, 542 such weapons were dug up in Qiqihar, Heilongjiang Province, by a joint team of Chinese and Japanese experts.

(China Daily, China.org.cn September 28, 2004)

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