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WWII chemical bombs add to Japan damages call

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam, CNN Senior China Analyst

Excavating the chemical shells, which are more than 50 years old, is a dangerous and difficult task.
Excavating the chemical shells, which are more than 50 years old, is a dangerous and difficult task.

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HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Calls for more comprehensive World War II compensation from Japan are poised to rise as more war-time weapons are being discovered in different parts of China.

At the same time, opposition to using Japanese technology to build the lucrative Beijing-Tokyo rail link has intensified.

The state media has continued to provide high-profile coverage to victims who had fallen sick after coming into contact with mustard-gas bombs unearthed early this month in a construction site in Qiqihar, Heilongjiang Province.

The number of injured Heilongjiang residents has risen to 43, with one listed as in critical conditions.

More significantly, more World War II-vintage munitions and weapon stockpiles are being discovered in provinces and cities that were occupied by the Japanese army.

The media in the central city of Wuhan reported over the weekend that "poisonous gas" had been emitted from a bomb stored in a temporary depot of war-time munitions.

Two chemical bombs reportedly left behind by the Japanese Army have also been found near Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province.

Diplomatic sources in Beijing said given the rise of anti-Japanese sentiments engendered by the Qiqihar incident, both the Chinese government and relevant NGOs might press Tokyo for wider-range compensation for damages done by left-over Japanese weapons and munitions all over China.

Tokyo has in principle agreed to pay compensation, including medical expenses, for the Qiqihar victims.

Japan launched a full scale invasion of China in 1937.
Japan launched a full scale invasion of China in 1937.

However, the sources said Beijing might want a broader-gauge agreement or convention on reparations regarding war-time bombs and other toxic material left by Japanese military personnel.

In the early 1970s, Beijing officially gave up all claims on the Japanese government regarding reparations for Japan's invasion and occupation of China which was launched full-scale in 1937 and ended after Japan's surrender to Allied forces in 1945.

However, the Chinese leadership has come under intense pressure from nationalistic intellectuals as well as activists campaigning on behalf of war-time victims such as "comfort women."

Political analysts said Beijing might be able to placate its critics by pressing for an omnibus compensation package regarding left-over bombs.

Meanwhile, opposition to the government using the bullet-train model for the Beijing-Shanghai link has increased, making it less likely that Japanese companies can win the estimated $12 billion contract.

According to a recent poll by the popular Web site on nationalism and the Beijing-Shanghai line, 79 percent of respondents said it was "appropriate" to take nationalistic considerations into account when evaluating the infrastructure project.

And several tens of thousands of Chinese have written to Internet Web sites or signed on to web-based petitions opposing Japanese participation in the key rail link.

Earlier this month, Tokyo approved a 2.66 billion yen ($22.3 million) aid package to China mainly in the medical and environmental areas.

While the financial assistance, coupled with the visits of several top Japanese politicians, is believed to have improved the chances of Japanese rail companies, the Beijing leadership has to consider the increasingly prominent role that nationalism is playing in Chinese politics.

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