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China, Japan team begins chemical weapons excavation

Written by: Staff
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NING'AN, China, July 6 (Reuters) Experts from China and Japan, at odds over a series of disputes springing from Japan's wartime occupation, have begun excavating chemical weapons left behind by retreating Japanese forces.

Thirty-one Japanese bombs, seven of them containing chemicals, were recovered yesterday in northeastern Ning'an city, Heilongjiang province, Liu Yiren, director of the Japanese Abandoned Chemical Weapons in China, told a news conference.

Experts were again using metal detectors on Thursday to locate more than 100 bombs near a middle school in Ning'an, where shells with toxic chemicals were discovered in 2004.

Chinese harbour deep bitterness over Japan's invasion and occupation of large parts of the country between 1931 and 1945, and accuse modern-day Japanese leaders of failing to acknowledge atrocities committed by the Imperial Army.

Present-day Heilongjiang in 1932 became part of a Japanese puppet state in an area then known as Manchuria.

''Abandoned chemical weapons have been affecting the economic development of towns and cities where they are buried and threatening people's lives,'' Liu said.

The bombs would be moved to a site in Harbaling, in neighbouring Jilin province, where about 30,000 other chemical weapons have been stockpiled, Liu said.

China and Japan signed a memorandum on the destruction of chemical weapons abandoned by Japan. The agreement required the work to be done by 2007, but not a single weapon had been disposed of so far, he said.

''I am not content about it,'' he said.

In 2003, a man was killed and 43 injured when five canisters of mustard gas were disturbed at a construction site in Qiqihar, Heilongjiang province.

The two countries disagree on the scale of the weapons problem, with China saying there are 2 million shells to be dealt with, while Japan puts the figure in the hundreds of thousands.

REUTERS SB ND1548

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