Disclosure for disposal of arms left in China urged

The government must make public information on how it will dismantle poison gas weapons abandoned in China at the end of the war, a citizens’ group holding exhibitions on Japan’s wartime development and use of poison gas demanded April 28.

A landmark convention banning the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons, takes effect April 29. Japan has ratified the treaty and is now obligated to dismantle all its unused poison gas shells left behind in China within the next 10 years. The number of such shells is estimated by the Japanese government to be 700,000, while the Chinese estimate stands at 2 million.

A joint working group set up by the two governments met in Beijing earlier this month to discuss the disposal procedures and schedule. The group has agreed on construction of a weapons-dismantling plant in Jilin Province, with operations scheduled to begin by next spring. However, Beijing has expressed concerns about its safety and environmental impact.

The citizens’ group, Poison Gas Exhibition Organizing Committee, is comprised of about 200 individuals from across Japan. It said in a news conference April 28 that the Japanese government should fully disclose its process of dismantling poison gas weapons, including the selection of corporations to be commissioned in the project.

With the enforcement of the Chemical Weapons Convention, Japan, which was a major user of chemical weapons in the past, is responsible for dismantling abandoned chemical weapons, the statement released by the group said. Upper House member Kimiko Kurihara said Tokyo will set up a “preparatory office” within the Cabinet Councilors’ Office on External Affairs by early next month to coordinate governmental efforts to comply with the convention.

The citizens’ group also demanded that the government apologize to and compensate postwar victims of poison gas weapons abandoned by Japan, saying some 2,000 people have inadvertently dug out the old shells and become poisoned in the years since the war. Experts have pointed out that the weapons have caused environmental problems such as soil contamination, the group members said.