Sat, Dec 27, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Japan to pay back China for chemical weapons losses

AP , BEIJING

After weeks of often-testy negotiations, China said Thursday it will accept ?300 million (US$2.74 million) in compensation from Japan for dozens of people injured by abandoned Japanese chemical weapons in a northeastern Chinese city.

One person was killed and 43 injured in October when construction workers in the city of Qiqihar broke open canisters of poison gas left behind at the end of World War II. The disaster caused an uproar in China, where Japan's wartime conduct is still a sensitive issue.

The Japanese government is to send the money "in a few days," the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超).

The report didn't say how many people would receive compensation or how it would be divided.

Tokyo made the offer in October after China's Foreign Ministry twice summoned the Japanese ambassador and complained that Japan was failing to keep promises to help survivors of the incident.

Japan's military is believed to have abandoned some 700,000 artillery shells, bombs and other weapons loaded with chemical agents when it left China at the end of the war.

China says the abandoned weapons have killed at least 2,000 of its people.

Liu was also quoted as saying that China was urging Japan to speed up efforts to clean up the leftover weapons as agreed to under a 1997 agreement.

Though the two sides have a strong trade relationship, China regularly protests gestures by Tokyo that it thinks slight the country or evoke memories of that war.

Recently, three Japanese students and a teacher at a university in western China apologized publicly after wearing brassieres and fake genitals for a performance that sparked protests by thousands of Chinese students.

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