China has successfully retrieved more than 40,000 chemical weapons buried or discarded by the Japanese Imperial Army at the end of the Second World War, according to the Chinese People's Liberation Army Headquarters of General Staff (PLAHGS).
"China has been nicknamed the world's largest chemical weapons dump," Shi Jianhua, an official with the institute of chemical defense under PLAHGS, said.
Scores of chemical weapons abandoned by Japanese troops have been found in dozens of Chinese provinces, Shi said. However, the exact number and location of these weapons are not available due to insufficient data.
"To date, most of the abandoned weapons have been discovered by accident," he said.
After Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces in 1945, its troops surreptitiously dumped and buried large quantities of chemical weapons in China.
Official statistics show that more than 2,000 Chinese have suffered some form of injury, usually as a result of digging the weapons up by accident.
In August 2003, a toxic leak killed one man and injured 43 others after five canisters of mustard gas were unearthed at a construction site in Qiqihar in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang.
In December 2003, the Japanese government paid 300 million yen (US$2.75 million) in compensation, part of the funds going towards clearing the area of the weapons, and the other to the families of the victims.
According to a 1997 international treaty banning chemical weapons, Japan is required to dispose of those that remain buried.
In 1999, Japan promised to provide funding, technology, manpower, facilities or other assets needed to scrap the weapons.
China and Japan are working together to build disposal facilities.
(Xinhua News Agency September 7, 2005)