BEIJING/TAIPEI – China will allow the public to visit previously restricted areas at a World War II-era chemical and biological weapons lab run by the Imperial Japanese Army’s notorious Unit 731 beginning next year, Chinese state media are reporting.
The laboratory forms part of a site in the northeastern city of Harbin used by the Japanese military to test unconventional weapons — including deadly bacteria and toxic gas — on human prisoners. Thousands of people are reported to have died in the experiments.
Other areas of the site are already open to the public as part of the Museum of Evidence of War Crimes by Japanese Army Unit 731, but this will be the first time the lab, as well as a prison used to hold victims, will be made accessible, Xinhua News Agency said.
The facility provides “direct evidence of the army unit’s biological and chemical warfare program,” Xinhua quoted the museum’s director as saying.
The announcement came as part of a propaganda push by the Chinese government to mark the occasion of the 77th anniversary Monday of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident — a clash between Japanese and Chinese troops near Beijing on July 7, 1937, that sparked Japan’s invasion of eastern China.
News reports covering Japan’s role in World War II flooded newspapers and TV throughout Monday, with particular prominence given to a speech by President Xi Jinping warning against attempts to “beautify” wartime history.
Over the last week, Chinese newspapers have also begun publishing a series of “confessions” by Japanese war criminals that detail atrocities committed during the conflict.
China’s national archive is releasing one confession a day for 45 days.
Although Beijing has long played up Japan’s role in the conflict, war-related media reports have increased substantially following the decision by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration last week to relax restrictions on the use of military force put in place following the country’s defeat in World War II.
Meanwhile, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has unveiled plans to open museums in 2015 commemorating China’s war of resistance against Japan’s invasion, as well as the victims of its so-called comfort women system of forced sexual servitude.
Speaking at an event Monday to mark the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, Ma said 2015 is very important for Taiwan because it is the 70th anniversary of China’s victory over Japan’s aggression.
The president said he has instructed the Defense Ministry to set up the two museums to preserve historical facts about the war and the comfort women.
Ma, who has recently taken a hard-line stance against Japan, added that his government can’t make concessions on its claim to sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
The islands, called Tiaoyutai in Taiwan, were the first part of Taiwan invaded by Japan, he said.
Japan returned mainland Taiwan as well as the Penghu, or the Pescadores Islands, to Taiwan after World War II but did not hand over Tiaoyutai, Ma said.