Japan and China have agreed to jointly establish an organization to speed up recovery and disposal of chemical weapons abandoned by Japan’s Imperial Army at the end of World War II and will likely sign an agreement by late December, a Japanese government official said Saturday.
Workers remove an unexploded Japanese WWII bomb found at a construction site in Wuhan in this undated file photo.[AFP]
After a series of talks, the two sides roughly agreed to set up the body which would oversee the functions of a chemical weapons disposal factory to be built in Jilin Province in northeastern China, said Hisashi Michigami, a Cabinet Office official in charge of the project.
“We hope to sign a memorandum by the end of the year, and when the project is officially approved, we can finally have a ground breaking for a plant construction,” Michigami said. “It would be a positive development for the relations between the two countries.”
Japan’s ties with China have plunged to their lowest in decades over Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to a Tokyo shrine that honors convicted war criminals among its war dead, territorial disputes, and history school books which critics say gloss over Japan’s wartime atrocities.
Japan’s army controlled China’s northeast for a decade before its World War II defeat, and left behind about 700,000 chemical weapons — a lingering source of resentment for many Chinese. Over half of the weapons are still in the Jilin area, Michigami said. Beijing says abandoned chemical weapons have killed at least 2,000 Chinese since 1945.
Under a 1997 international convention, Japan must complete cleaning up the discarded chemical arsenal by 2007.
So far, only 37,000 have been excavated and treated.
Japan will cover the estimated 97.3 billion yen cost of digging up and recovery of the weapons, which also includes some of the construction costs of the factory, Michigami said.
Japan and China have not decided if, or for how long, the project will have to be extended beyond 2007, Michigami said.
A national newspaper reported Saturday that the two governments are tentatively planning a five-year extension.
In June, Tokyo pledged to speed up the process, introducing a plan to build a disposal facility in the Jilin Province.
Japanese experts have made 10 trips for small-scale chemical weapons recovery and treatment projects since 2000. In their latest visit in November, experts recovered and treated 374 weapons in Jilin Province.
The recovered weapons have been kept in temporary storage provided by China until a safer depository can be set up. Once the disposal facility is completed, the weapons can be sent there for treatment.