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Japanese biological warfare veteran says he cut human `logs'

TOKYO (AP) _ Yoshio Shinozuka is still haunted by the ghoulish experiments he helped carry out on captured Chinese civilians and soldiers as part of Japan's top-secret biological warfare program during World War II.

The Japanese military performed vivisections without anesthesia in northern China, casually referring to the people as ``logs,'' the veteran recalled Wednesday in Tokyo District Court.

``I remember using the word as we compared how many logs we cut that day with other unit members,'' he said.

Though Shinozuka, 77, has spoken out before about his role, his testimony makes him the first member of the notorious Unit 731 to detail Japan's biological warfare activities for the legal record. He was called as a witness for nearly 180 Chinese suing the Japanese government for compensation and an apology for the deaths of family members allegedly killed by the unit.

Shinozuka testified about participating in the mass production of cholera, dysentery and typhoid germs at the unit's base in the city of Harbin in the early 1940s. He said he was often told to help out departments that needed to boost germ production for upcoming deployments, including the 1939 Nomonhan clash with Soviet troops near Mongolia and several other germ bombing attacks in southern China in the 1940s.

He said that just before the Nomonhan attack, he was responsible for transferring dysentery and typhoid germs from test tubes to bigger jars, packing them into barrels, sealing them and taking them to a night train for the attack. Several unit members died after contracting typhoid.

Shinozuka said he is still bothered by the vivisections, or surgical experiments on living people.

``I committed all these war crimes because I was ordered to do so,'' he said. ``The government should try to learn about the victims. I really think it's time for Japan to face this issue with humanitarian consideration.''

Shinozuka said the unit members were prohibited from disclosing to outsiders what happened inside the unit. Notes and other written instructions were all collected afterward.

Former Unit 731 pilot Shoichi Matsumoto told the court later Wednesday that he spread plague-infected fleas from an airplane over Hangzhou in 1940 and Nanjing in 1941.

Matsumoto told the court he carried healthy rats from a Tokyo suburb to Harbin to get them infected with bubonic plague. He also flew to Singapore and Java with the rats.

The two veterans were testifying in the case, filed in 1997, that say at least 2,100 people were killed in the experiments. The trial is expected to continue for several more months.

Although some Japanese veterans such as Shinozuka have come forward in recent years and confessed to war crimes, the Japanese government has resisted making official apologies to China.

Several years ago _ after decades of denial _ Tokyo finally acknowledged that Unit 731 existed. But it has refused to confirm the extent of its activities.

Japanese textbooks too often present only brief, perfunctory accounts of the nation's aggression in East Asia from the mid-1930s until the war's end in 1945.

Shinozuka said one of his reasons for testifying was disappointment with the government's efforts to come clean about the war, and said he was deeply sorry for his actions.

``What I have done was something that nobody should have done as a human being,'' he said. ``I cannot escape that responsibility.''

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