Tokyo has expressed its "true regrets" for the latest injuries caused by chemical weapons abandoned in China by Japanese troops during World War II.
Three Chinese people were injured last week when poisonous gas leaked from weapons left in the Panyu District of Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province.
After checks by its own investigation team, the Japanese Embassy in Beijing yesterday confirmed that the chemical weapons were the cause of the injuries.
"Our government released a statement on Sunday and expressed true regrets for the accident," said Ide Keiji, minister in charge of press relations at the Japanese embassy.
Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hatsuhisa Takashima said in the statement that Japan "truly regrets that the accident happened and expresses heartfelt sympathy to the sufferers."
The three injured were taken to hospital after they inhaled the gas, which leaked from shells buried in sand by a riverbank where they were working.
Officials in Guangzhou could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Keiji said the Japanese government has been working towards a quick removal of all chemical weapons left behind in China.
In recent years, abandoned chemical weapons have been the cause of several deaths and injuries, particularly in the northeast of the country.
In August 2003, one man was killed and 43 injured after five canisters of mustard gas were unearthed at a construction site in Qiqihar in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang.
In July 2004, two schoolboys in northeastern China were wounded when they uncovered and played with chemical weapons.
Bu Ping, a researcher at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, estimated that Japan might have abandoned more than 2 million chemical weapons across China at the end of World War II.
Since then, about 2,000 Chinese people have either been killed or injured as a result, Bu added.
Under the international Chemical Weapons Convention, Japan is required to dispose of all chemical weapons left in China by 2007.
(China Daily June 28, 2005)