TOKYO, Aug 5 (AP) -- Six Chinese victims of a 2003 poison gas leak from Japanese World War II weapons -- including three children -- met with a senior Foreign Ministry official Friday to demand health care assistance and aid.
The group was exposed to mustard gas left behind by Japan's former Imperial Army in Qiqihar, a city in Heilongjiang province, in August 2003. The leak, which rekindled resentment over Japan's wartime conquest of China, killed one person and injured 42.
In a written request addressed to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the victims demanded an apology from the Japanese government, as well as long-term medical care for aftereffects such as skin damage, impaired vision, and respiratory trouble. They also urged Japan to provide education and future employment support for child victims of the leak, and to prevent a similar incident from happening again.
"The victims harbor great fears for their future, and long-term care by the Japanese government is essential," Asahi newspaper quoted the group's lawyer, Norio Minami, as saying before the visit.
The Japanese government paid nearly 300 million yen to China in 2003 as "costs related to the disposal of chemical weapons," not compensation. Despite criticism both at home and abroad that Japan has not shown sincere remorse for its wartime brutality, the government has so far refused to pay compensation to individuals.
Japan controlled China's northeast for a decade before its wartime defeat in 1945 and says its army left behind an estimated 700,000 chemical weapons. Qiqihar, the provincial capital, was a major center for Japanese military operations.
Under a 1997 international convention, Japan is obliged to finish cleaning them up by 2007, but only 37,000 have been dug up and treated so far. Tokyo has pledged to speed up progress, saying it would build a factory to dispose of weapons in China's northeastern Jilin Province, where most of the abandoned weapons are buried.
Beijing says weapons abandoned by Japan have killed at least 2,000 since 1945.