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Japan Must Do What's Right

The Japanese Government must fulfill its liability to dispose of chemical weapons left in China by Japanese troops during wartime aggression (1937-1945), according to an article in Beijing News. An excerpt follows:


On May 24 another chemical weapon canister was found in the city of Qiqihar in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province. Fortunately, nobody was hurt this time.


The problem is, as a key supply depot for Japanese troops during the puppet Manchuria regime in World War II, Qiqihar had at least 200,000 pieces of explosive ordnance left behind when the city was abandoned by the invaders.


The accident last August, in which more than 40 people were injured and one was killed by mustard gas from a canister unearthed in a construction project, sent an urgent warning.


As Qiqihar is undertaking large-scale infrastructure construction, it is a priority to find and destroy the chemical weapons left by the Japanese occupiers all those years ago.


And the Japanese Government has an unshirkable responsibility to help locate those weapons and make suitable reparations to those who have been injured by them.


According to international law, a country must take international liability for its illegal actions.


During the invasion and occupation of China, Japanese troops used various chemical weapons, in direct violation of several international agreements including the Geneva Protocol of 1925. The practice was therefore illegal in terms of international law. The Japanese Government is definitely liable for the disposal of the 2 million chemical bombs its troops abandoned in China.


Soon after the accident last August, some Japanese officials said China had given up claims for war compensation from Japan.


That is true, but purely out of China's kind wish to boost Sino-Japanese ties. The issue of chemical weapons left over from the war is a carry-over problem that has nothing to do with general war compensation.


The demand for compensation over the damages caused by the chemical weapons is thus not contradictory with China's former stance of giving up claims of war compensation.


The argument of the aforementioned Japanese officials is groundless according to both texts of international law and the international legal practice.


As a signatory of the Chemical Weapons Convention, Japan is obliged to destroy all chemical weapons it left in other countries. And a memorandum signed by China and Japan in 1999 about dealing with the Japanese chemical weapons left in China also stipulated Japan's obligation and responsibility in this regard.


In practice, chemical weapons from war, if found, are usually taken back by the country that abandoned them. The United States shipped chemical weapons it left on the island of Okinawa back for disposal and Germany destroyed its chemical weapons remaining in Poland in the early 1990s.


Though Japan has begun, in a tardy way, its search for more chemical weapons in Chinese territory with the help of the Chinese government and has destroyed some of the weapons, the current search is far from satisfactory for the huge number remaining. Not cleared in time, these weapons could cause serious accidents.


Japan should fulfill its obligation and step up its efforts to locate and dispose of the chemical weapons. It should offer the technologies for destroying the weapons and supply necessary information, equipment and personnel.


(China Daily May 31, 2004)



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