Japanese efforts to remove chemical weapons left behind in China after World War II, required under international treaty, are now on hold after the company responsible for the removal was closed due to a corruption scandal. As TIME reports, the company’s closure has ominous implications for relations between China and Japan:
…critics say the fault lies with the government itself, for a failure of oversight that allowed the Abandoned Chemical Weapons Disposal Corp. (ACWDC) to misappropriate approximately 100 million yen ($1 million) of public funds. And they question the government’s commitment to removing the weapons, which remain lethal more than 60 years after the war. Cleaning up these caustic reminders of Japanese aggression in China would be a practical way for Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda to act on his stated desire to improve relations between the two countries. Yet, while a Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said that the cleanup “is extremely important for improving trust,” the government has not indicated how it plans to get the project back on track — nor has it launched a tendering process for companies to bid for the contract.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party draws important support from organizations that downplay or deny Japanese use of chemical and biological weapons in China during the war. And there are deniers in the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, too: Jin Matsubara, a Democratic parliamentarian known for denying the killing of Chinese civilians by the Japanese Imperial Army in Nanjing in 1937-1938, recently used his speaking time at a Diet session dedicated to discussing the weapons to question their very existence.