Japanese efforts to recover and dispose of hundreds of thousands of chemical weapons abandoned in China by the Imperial Army at the end of World War II will take five years longer than planned, an official said yesterday.
A 1997 international convention required Japan to remove the weapons by April 2007.
However, Japan and China requested a five-year extension until 2012 because of the large number of weapons still to be unearthed and destroyed.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Hague-based organization that oversees the treaty, approved the extension last month, said Keigo Akashi, a Cabinet Office official in charge of the chemical weapons disposal project.
Akashi said Japan wants to make preparations to build a chemical weapons disposal factory in Jilin Province in northeastern China by the end of this March, pending Chinese government approval.
Japan has so far removed 38,000 chemical weapons.
Japan's Imperial Army controlled China's northeast for a decade before its World War II defeat, and left behind about 700,000 chemical weapons -- a lingering source of resentment for many Chinese. Nearly half of the weapons are believed to remain in the Jilin area, according to a Japanese government estimate.
Beijing says that abandoned chemical weapons have killed at least 2,000 Chinese since 1945.
Disposal of abandoned munitions is a rare point of agreement between the normally estranged Chinese and Japanese governments.
Japan's relations with China have fallen to their lowest in decades over Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to a Tokyo war shrine.
Critics say the visits glorify the country's past militarism, while territorial disputes and disputes over history school books that some say whitewash Japan's wartime atrocities have added to the tensions.