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Japan to Dispose of WWII Chemical Weapons Buried in NE China

Japan will dig up and dispose of leftover World War II chemical weapons thought to be buried in Dunhua, Jilin Province, in northeastern China from next Wednesday through Nov. 23 in cooperation with the Chinese government, the Cabinet Office said Friday.

Takeshi Erikawa, vice minister for the Cabinet Office, will visit China for five days starting Tuesday to discuss with Chinese officials disposal of the weapons abandoned by the Imperial Japanese Army, government officials said.

He will also visit the venues where Japan is planning to build two chemical weapons-disposal facilities in Jinlin Province.

The bulk of an estimated 700,000 artillery shells abandoned by Japan are believed to be buried in the province.

Two children were injured by abandoned Japanese chemical weapons in July 2004 in Dunhua.

In Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, three people were injured by abandoned Japanese chemical weapons in June.

Meanwhile, in Qiqihar, Heilongjiang Province, gas leaking from leftover Japanese chemical weapons killed one local resident and injured 43 others in August 2003.

Japan estimates its forces abandoned more than 700,000 chemical weapons in China during the war, although Chinese experts say as many as two million exist -- the world's largest stockpile of abandoned chemical arms.

Some 90 percent of abandoned chemical weapons, including mustard gas, a highly poisonous blistering agent, are buried in Jinlin and experts fear chemical agents from the weapons may have polluted the soil in the area.

Under the UN Chemical Weapons Convention, Japan has until 2007 to destroy all of the chemical weapons its troops left in China.

(CRI October 8, 2005)

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