BEIJING – Leaking mustard gas dumped by Japanese troops in northeastern China at the end of World War II has claimed its first life, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Friday.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported earlier in the day that Li Guizhen, a transient scrap metal collector, died Thursday of multiple organ failure.
He was among more than 40 people hospitalized after construction workers discovered five barrels of the lethal chemical weapon in the city of Qiqihar on Aug. 4.
Li suffered burns over 95 percent his body after being sprayed with the volatile liquid while removing lead and copper fastenings from one of the five barrels that he had bought for 200 yuan (about $24), the report said.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi summoned Japanese Ambassador to China Koreshige Anami to the ministry and formally demanded compensation for the victims of the incident, saying Japan has a responsibility that cannot be shifted onto others.
In Tokyo, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Japan expresses its condolences to the victim’s family and will continue to respond sincerely to the accident in close cooperation with the Chinese.
After the chemical weapons were unearthed, Japan dispatched six experts to help clean up the toxic mess, along with seven medical workers to assist in treating patients. But the Qiqihar city government and some of the victims have called on Japan to compensate victims.
However, Japan’s position is not to comply with such demands from China, saying it has given up claims to wartime reparations.