• Kyodo

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The Foreign Ministry has announced that an international chemical weapons inspection team will examine wartime poison-gas bombs recovered from Lake Kussharo in Hokkaido in 1996.

In a six-day examination from Thursday, the three-member team from The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will check 26 chemical bomb shells retrieved in October 1996 from the lake.

The inspection is designed to verify a Japanese government report on the defusing of the bombs, as required under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which took effect in April 1997 to prohibit and eliminate chemical weapons.

The bombs have been undergoing a detoxification process since Monday in a local plant and 23 of the 26 bombs had been defused by Friday morning, the Prime Minister’s Office said. All the bombs will be defused during the inspection period.

The inspection by the OPCW, which is responsible for the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, is the third of its kind, following the second in June last year, the ministry said.

The results of the inspection will be reported to the Japanese government in about three months, it said.

The Japanese government decided on a safe and effective way to dispose of the bombs after last year’s inspection.

OPCW inspectors first arrived in Japan in December 1997 to inspect the bombs, but were unable to confirm the nature of the weapons.

An examination by the Self-Defense Forces had earlier indicated that the shells are flammable poison-gas bombs containing a yperite mixture, better known as mustard gas. Lewisite was also detected in one of them.

The shells are believed to have been dumped by the Imperial Japanese Army after the end of World War II. Erosion has damaged 24 of the shells and their chemical gases have leaked.

After being recovered, each shell has been kept in a tightly sealed container and the bombs were buried in a concrete box at a storage facility in Teshikaga.

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