JAPAN WILL COMPENSATE CHINESE GAS VICTIMS


2003-09-03
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Tokyo plans to pay 'sympathy money' for mustard gas leak

Japan will likely pay some U.S. $857,000 in compensation to relatives of a Chinese man who died and others who were injured by mustard gas left in China by Japanese troops during World War II, RFA reports.

Japan's Yomiuri newspaper quoted Cabinet-level sources as saying the government plans to pay "sympathy money" to the family of the man who died and to cover the medical costs of those hurt in the gas leak. It might also offer to help pay for the canisters to be re-sealed following the accident.

The leak occurred on Aug. 4, when five containers of the lethal gas, sealed with lead and wrapped in plastic, were uncovered on a construction site in the northeastern Chinese city of Qiqihar.

One was accidentally broken, causing an oil-like substance to leak into surrounding areas, poisoning at least 41 people. It was later confirmed to be mustard gas, which Tokyo admitted was buried by its army nearly 60 years ago.

Under its negotiated agreements as part of the Chemical Weapons Convention, Tokyo has agreed to fund and organize China's expected billion-dollar clean-up of weapons dumped in the country by its occupying forces.

However, it has fought labelling its efforts "wartime compensation." Tokyo holds that it made its reparations to China under the terms of the 1972 Sino-Japanese Treaty of Cooperation and Friendship.

The Yomiuri said the government was expected to earmark the funds from a Cabinet Office budget allocated this year for disposing of leftover chemical weapons in China.

Japan's brutal occupation of Chinese territory before and during World War II remains a source of tension between the countries.

Japan estimates about 700,000 chemical weapons were abandoned by its retreating armies at the end of the war, although Chinese experts say that as many as 2 million such weapons are still buried.

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