BEIJING Feb 17 China said on Monday it was
"extremely concerned" by a report that Japan has resisted
returning to the United States more than 300 kg (660 lb) of
mostly weapons-grade plutonium, the latest dispute between the
two Asian neighbours.
Japan's Kyodo news agency said that Washington had pressed
Japan to give back the nuclear material which could be used to
make up to 50 nuclear bombs. Japan had resisted, but finally
given in to U.S. demands, it added.
The material was bought for research purposes during the
1960s and the two governments will likely reach an official
agreement on its return at the Nuclear Security Summit at The
Hague in March, an official at Japan's Education Ministry said.
China is involved in a bitter territorial dispute with Japan
and has warned Japan is trying to re-arm.
"China believes that Japan, as a signatory to the
Non-Proliferation Treaty, ought to rigorously respect its
international commitments to nuclear safety and
non-proliferation," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua
Chunying told a daily news briefing.
"For a long time, Japan has not returned the stored nuclear
materials to the relevant country, which has caused concern in
the international community. China is of course very concerned."
Japan, the world's only victim of nuclear attacks in the
final stages of World War Two, does not have nuclear weapons,
unlike China, and it is the government's stance that it will not
Deteriorating relations between Beijing and Tokyo have been
fuelled by a row over a chain of uninhabited islands in the East
China Sea. Ships from both countries frequently shadow each
other around the islets, raising fears of a clash.
Ties have worsened further since China's creation of an air
defence identification zone over the East China Sea and Japanese
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the controversial Yasukuni
Shrine honouring war criminals among Japan's war dead.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Linda Sieg
and Kiyoshi Takenaka in TOKYO; Editing by Nick Macfie)