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Japan and China are at odds over compensation for a fatal leak of mustard gas in August in Qiqihar, HeilongEjiang Province, Japanese offiEcials said Sunday.

The two countries held two rounds of talks this month in Beijing, but it will probably take some time to reach an agreement, including the amount, partly because JaEpan refuses to pay compensaEtion stemming from the war, the officials said.

The poison gas was left by the Japanese military at the end of World War II.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi vowed to deal “sinEcerely” with the incident when he met with Wu BangEguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Chinese NaEtional People’s Congress, in Tokyo in early September.

Japanese government sources have said Tokyo is ready to offer E00 million mainly to the victims of the incident, under the name of a research fee.

However, Japan takes the position that the issue of warEtime compensation was setEtled by the 1972 China-Japan Joint Communique under which Beijing renounced warEtime reparations from Japan.

Japan is also wary of possiEble policy inconsistency over litigation by five Heilongjiang Province residents demandEing compensation for their health damage from previous poison gas leaks, the officials said.

The Tokyo District Court dismissed the plaintiffs’ deEmand last May, ruling it was difficult for Japan to survey and collect poison gas by the time they were exposed to the abandoned chemical weapEons. The plaintiffs have apEpealed.

Payment over the Qiqihar case may be regarded as inEconsistent with Japan’s rejecEtions of payments in earlier cases. a Foreign Ministry ofEficial said.

However, the Japanese government was quick to beEgin paying medical costs for residents in Kamisu, Ibaraki Prefecture, who suffered health damage from well waEter, until it was found in March to be contaminated by former Japanese military poison gas.

The poison gas leak ocEcurred Aug. 4 when workers at a construction site in QiqihEar uncovered five drums, one of which contained mustard gas.