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China releases Japan papers on 277 human experiment victims.

CHANGCHUN, China, Sept. 24 Kyodo

An archive in northeastern China's Jilin Province has released classified documents on 277 prisoners of war on whom the Imperial Japanese Army's ''Unit 731'' performed live biological warfare experiments during World War II, archive officials said Monday.

The 630 pages of documents drawn up by military police of the Guandong Army, Japan's field army, between May 1939 and May 1945, were released by the archive earlier this month.

The release came 46 years after they were discovered from underneath the former military police headquarters in Changchun in the province. The papers were transferred to an archive in the city in 1982, the officials said.

The release was delayed because curators did not have enough time to examine the papers and laws on information disclosure had not been enacted in China, said Zhang Zhiqiang, an archive official.

However, the release at this time may be linked to China's attempt to remind Japan of its wartime atrocities in the wake of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine last month, where 14 Class A war criminals are enshrined.

A list showed that the 277 prisoners of war consisted of Chinese, Soviets and Koreans. Their names, birthplaces and pictures were included in the documents.

Unit 731, an infamous medical team set up by the Japanese army in the suburbs of Harbin in northeastern China's Heilongjiang Province in 1936, developed bacteriological weapons by conducting experiments on prisoners of war.

Historians say the number of victims exceeded 3,000, although the military police burned most of the documents at the end of war to destroy evidence.

The documents also showed that 30% to 40% of prisoners of war who had been detained by the military police on suspicion of espionage ended up becoming guinea pigs in the experiments.

The released papers included communications with the unit on ''special transfer'' of the prisoners of war who were held as suspected spies.

It is the first time that about one-10th of the victims' names were made public. In 1999, similar Japanese military police documents released by Heilongjiang Province clarified the names of 52 victims, including 33 whose names were reconfirmed in the documents released by the archive this time, the officials said.

The fact that the victims included Soviet and Korean prisoners of war was also confirmed for the first time by the Japanese documents.

The archive head Liu Fenglou said the papers reveal ''invasion of northeastern China and sinful, cruel bacteriological warfare by Japanese imperialism.''

Unit 731 is believed to have spread pest bacilli and other bacteria in southern China's Zhejiang Province and other regions.

The release of the classified documents this time may intensify moves in China to seek reparations from the Japanese government in connection with damages from Unit 731.

According to the archive, the papers were recovered in 1955 based on accounts of Japanese war criminals who were detained in Fushun in Liaoning Province, neighboring Jilin Province.

After the transfer to the archive, the documents were kept intact in its storeroom. But curators began close examination of the papers in January as part of preparations for the 70th anniversary of the Manchurian Incident.

In the incident, which took place Sept. 18-19, 1931, elements of Japan's Guandong Army attacked a Chinese garrison following a bombing staged by the Japanese military in Liutiaogou in Liaoning Province. It led to conquest of Manchuria by the Japanese army.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Oct 1, 2001
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