China says 2,500 wartime Japanese chemical weapons destroyed

FILE - In this Wednesday, July 5, 2006, file photo, Chinese and Japanese chemical weapons experts in protective clothing dig up abandoned poison gas bombs in a pit in Ning'an, northeastern China's Heilongjiang province. China’s military said Tuesday that more than 2,500 abandoned Japanese wartime chemical weapons collected from northern China, including Beijing and the port city of Tianjin, have been destroyed in a four-year disposal process. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)
FILE - In this Wednesday, July 5, 2006, file photo, a Chinese chemical weapons expert aligns poison gas bombs dug from a pit in Ning'an, northeastern China's Heilongjiang province. China’s military said Tuesday that more than 2,500 abandoned Japanese wartime chemical weapons collected from northern China, including Beijing and the port city of Tianjin, have been destroyed in a four-year disposal process. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

BEIJING — China's military said Tuesday that more than 2,500 abandoned Japanese wartime chemical weapons collected from northern China, including Beijing and the port city of Tianjin, have been destroyed in a four-year disposal process.

Japan and China have been working together on the biggest chemical weapon cleanup effort in history, a decades-long, diplomatically sensitive project that is seen in China as a reminder of the wartime atrocities it suffered during Japan's 1937 invasion and subsequent occupation.

Under the terms of a 1997 treaty, Tokyo is responsible for cleaning up hundreds of thousands of chemical weapons left behind by its occupation troops at the end of World War II. China says thousands of Chinese have been killed or hurt since the end of the war in 1945 by accidents related to the buried weapons.

China's ministry of defense said Tuesday that the weapons' disposal at a facility in Shijiazhuang city in Hebei province, neighboring Beijing, had finished in a "safe, orderly and smooth manner." The weapons are generally burned in specially designed furnaces.

The remaining pieces of Japanese chemical weapons are difficult to find and destroy because they were scattered widely, the ministry said. It urged Japan to "increase manpower and resources" to finish the job.

China has repeatedly urged Japan to speed up the project, which was initially scheduled to be completed in 2007 but has hit delays.

China estimates that Japanese troops left behind more than 2 million chemical weapons, mostly in the northeastern region of Manchuria. The cleanup of the biggest cache — a site with nearly 700,000 chemical bombs at Haerbaling in Jilin province — is scheduled to be finished in 2022.

The Japanese government said in 2015 that it finished destroying another cache at a facility in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

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