By Zhong Sheng, People's Daily
A delegation of over 40 members recently paid a virtual visit to China regarding the destruction of Japan's abandoned chemical weapons (ACWs) in China.
The delegation included Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Fernando Arias, as well as diplomatic envoys or representatives from a number of countries to the OPCW.
During the visit, all the participants were briefed by China and Japan on the overall situation and destruction progress of Japan's ACWs in China, and took a virtue visit to Haerbaling, Dunhua, northeast China's Jilin province, the largest burial site of Japan's ACWs in China.
The delegation agreed that Japan's ACWs in China must be destructed as early as possible and said it would work for the early realization of "a world free of chemical weapons."
Japan employed a huge amount of chemical weapons during its aggression against China. To cover its crimes, it buried many of the chemical weapons on the spot or threw them into rivers and lakes before it surrendered.
Today, Japan's ACWs are found at over 120 sites in 18 Chinese provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. It is estimated that around 330,000 pieces of such weapons remain buried in Haerbaling alone. Both the range of the burial sites and the number of the ACWs are astonishing.
Japan's ACWs are one of the monstrous war crimes committed by Japanese militarists. They have long threatened people's lives and health, as well as ecological security in relevant regions in China.
To comprehensively, completely and thoroughly destroy Japan's ACWs in China and eradicate the poisonous legacy of Japanese aggression is a solemn promise made by the Chinese government to the Chinese people, as well as an implication of the victorious outcome of the World Anti-Fascist War.
Since 1990s, China has launched negotiation with Japan over the destruction of Japan's ACWs in China. In 1997, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) came into force. Under the efforts of China and the support of the international society, the CWC stipulates that the abandoning state party shall provide all necessary financial, technical, experts, facility as well as other resources to destroy the ACWs.
Under the strong pressure from politics, legal documents and public opinion, Japan had no choice but to admit its crimes. In 1999, China and Japan signed a memorandum on the destruction of chemical weapons abandoned by Japan, which marked the official start of the destruction work.
However, the destruction process didn't go very well.
According to the CWC, Japan should've destroyed all its ACWs before 2007, but the process has been significantly delayed as Japan was not paying enough attention to the matter and lacked investment. So far, Japan has only excavated and recovered over 90,000 items of the weapons and destroyed more than 60,000. This is clearly not satisfying for the Chinese people and the international society.
Japan has never provided China with complete and accurate information about its ACWs. Both the total amount and specific locations of Japan's ACWs in China still remain unknown today. These weapons have been buried for decades and caused huge soil pollution in China, but the Japanese side refuses to fulfill its responsibility.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan diplomatic ties, which provides an important opportunity for the two sides to review history and shape the future together.
The issue of Japan's ACWs tests whether Japan can face up to history. It is also a touchstone that tests whether the country can make contributions to regional peace, stability and development.
Japan should see clearly that saying one thing and doing another on the issue of ACWs will not work. The Chinese people will never let it go as long as Japan's ACWs in China are not completely destroyed.
The CWC has been implemented for 25 years. It's a common aspiration of the international society to solve the issue of ACWs at an early date and realize "a world free of chemical weapons."
Japan should show the political will to fulfill its international obligations and the political courage to redress its historical crimes, and earnestly increase input to completely and thoroughly eliminate the harm of ACWs as soon as possible and return a clean land to the Chinese people.
(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People's Daily to express its views on foreign policy and international affairs.)