BEIAN, China – Japan and China on Wednesday began jointly removing poison gas shells abandoned by the Imperial Japanese Army at the end of World War II in Beian, Heilongjiang Province.
A total of 75 Japanese and 200 Chinese will remove an estimated 500 shells over two weeks, a Japanese government official said.
The team unearthed 51 shells Wednesday, the official said, adding that all 10 shells that experts examined were confirmed as chemical weapons.
Three of the 10 were what the Imperial Japanese Army called “kii,” meaning yellow, which contain mustard gas. The remaining seven contained chemical substances that induced nausea, called “aka,” meaning red.
The Japanese team consists of government officials, private sector experts and eight Self-Defense Forces members who specialize in the disposal of chemical weapons, the official said.
This is the first time Japan has participated fully in the removal of chemical weapons, and the work is expected to move Japan another step closer to compensating China for its wartime atrocities.
The Japanese and Chinese were working in an area neighboring a residential part of the city, north of Harbin, the official said.
About 800 locals were told to evacuate the area because the work could be dangerous. The experts were wearing gas masks and a cylinder-shaped protective wall was erected at the scene.
The workers will transport the unearthed shells to a temporary storage complex in the province after covering their fuses with plaster and packing them in air-tight containers.
Experts believe the chemical weapons are buried with some 1,000 conventional shells.
Japanese forces are believed to have abandoned at least 700,000 chemical weapons in China; China claims the number is 2 million.
A Japanese official said 670,000 warheads are believed to have been buried on the outskirts of Dunhua in Jilin Province, adding that the first project will serve as a test case for the removal of those chemical weapons.
Beian is a small town with a population of 150,000.
Zhao Xishan, a 52-year-old resident who lives near the site, said: “We have lived in anxiety for so long. They should have been removed earlier.”
One community leader, Kung Xianrui, said many residents have moved to other places due to their anxiety over the abandoned chemical arms.
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