Experts on Japanese affairs welcomed the agreement reached by China and Japan in Tokyo on Thursday to speed up the process of clearing abandoned chemical weapons, which pose a threat to the lives of Chinese people.
The two countries agreed to set up a joint group to clear an estimated 660,000 chemical weapons abandoned in China by the Japanese in World War II.
Japan will dispatch about 50 consultants to the organization to speed up excavation of weapons from the area, according to the agreement.
"It is late, but good news," Yan Guoqun, a researcher with Chinese Academy of Military Science, said in an interview with China Daily.
Yan attributed the slow process in handling abandoned weapons to political reasons rather than technical ones.
"It is a heinous crime committed by invading Japanese troops in the past ... a major leftover issue of history between the two countries, and a major threat to the life of people in the affected regions," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regular news briefing on Thursday in Beijing.
"We hope that Japan can abide by its commitment to resolve this issue earnestly and at an early date."
Wang Shan, deputy director of Japanese Studies Department in China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said: "The establishment of the joint group is conducive to speeding up the excavation process, and will help the improvement of Sino-Japanese relations."
Japan occupied Northeast China from 1931 until its defeat in 1945. The retreating Japanese army left an estimated 700,000 shells with mustard gas and other poisons, almost half of which probably remain in the Jilin area, according to a Japanese Government estimate.
In another development, Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported that a top Chinese leader, most likely President Hu Jintao or Premier Wen Jiabao, will visit Japan next spring.
"The two sides should strike while the iron is still hot on bilateral relations after (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe visited China this October and should put into effect the consensus they reached as early as possible to prevent the iron from going cold," said Yang Bojiang, director of the Japanese Studies Department of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
Yang told China Daily that the first half of 2007 would be an important political period for Japan because of parliamentary elections next July, whose result would determine if Abe could stay in his position for three or six years.
(China Daily December 23, 2006)