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Japan to pay $3M to China for Damages from WWII Chemical Weapons - 2003-10-20

Japan will pay nearly $3 million to China after poisonous gas from old Japanese chemical weapons killed one man and injured dozens in August. The poisonous gas was left in barrels in China by the Japanese Imperial Army after World War II. Japan is working to remove from China all remaining 700,000 chemical weapons.

When Japan retreated from China at the end of World War II, it left behind a vast arsenal of chemical weapons.

In August, mustard gas leaked from a decayed drum at a construction site in the northeastern Chinese city of Qiqihar. The gas killed one man and injured more than thirty others.

This week, Japan announced it will give China $2.7 million as a settlement.

Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hatsuhisa Takashima says Tokyo decided make the payment to China, despite treaties between the two nations renouncing the right to claim wartime compensation. "Legally speaking, the right to claim the damage was no longer existing," said Mr. Takashima. "We decided to give the money to the Chinese government as a necessary payment to take care of the handling of the weapons of mass destruction case in Qiqihar."

Initially, Japan offered to pay only about $1 million, and China protested. China still says the amount is not sufficient.

China says that since 1945, abandoned weapons have killed more than 2,000 people. The August incident re-ignited simmering resentment many Chinese still feel towards Japan nearly 50years after the war ended.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said the gas leak not only caused severe bodily harm to Chinese people, but also hurt national feelings, and she noted that no sum of money can compensate.

Mr. Takashima of the Japanese Foreign Ministry says the funds can be used to dispose of weapons and medical treatment for injured Chinese, "for cleaning up and medical expenses may also be paid; it is up to the Chinese government."

Mr. Takashima notes that Japanese experts are working alongside their Chinese counterparts to clean up all the estimated 700,000 weapons its Imperial Army left behind. He says the work will soon be accelerated to dispose of all weapons by 2007 in line with an international convention Japan signed five years ago.

In a separate case, a Japanese court in September awarded $1.5 million in compensation to a group of plaintiffs for exposure to chemical weapons left behind by the Japanese army. The Japanese government has appealed that ruling, angering Beijing.