Japanese World War II-Era Poison Gas Bombs Unearthed in China

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A joint Chinese-Japanese team of experts has retrieved 210 abandoned Japanese poison gas bombs from World War II that were buried near a school in northeastern China, a news report said Tuesday.

A total of 689 shells and bombs were unearthed in Ning'an, a city near the Russian border, and 210 were found to contain mustard gas, lewisite, phosgene and other toxins, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

CountryWatch: China

The weapons were buried at the site, about 200 yards from a junior high school, after a factory received them as scrap metal, the Chinese government said.

Japan's military abandoned hundreds of thousands of chemical weapons in China's northeast at the end of the war.

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The experts in Ning'an began excavation work last week.

The recovered weapons were sealed and placed in temporary storage in preparation for final destruction, Xinhua said, citing China's Foreign Ministry.

A joint Chinese-Japanese effort to retrieve weapons from dozens of sites has collected 37,499 weapons and 200 tons of contaminated items over the past nine years, but none has been destroyed, Xinhua said.

Japan is obligated by a U.N. treaty to dispose of its abandoned chemical weapons by next year. But Beijing and Tokyo have agreed to try to have that deadline extended to 2012.

Chinese officials complain that Japan is working too slowly. Japanese officials say they are short-handed and are asking their government for more money and staff.

CountryWatch: Japan

China's government says more than 2,000 people have been killed in China by abandoned Japanese chemical weapons.

In August 2005, one person died and 43 were injured in the northeastern city of Qiqihar after a construction crew broke open a buried container of poison gas.

"The facts have proved again we have come to a situation where no more delays can be tolerated," Xinhua quoted Liu Yiren, director-general of the Foreign Ministry office in charge of Japanese chemical weapons, as saying.

"Judging from Japan's current pace of weapons disposal, we can't be too optimistic about complete destruction by 2012," Liu said.