Japanese War Crimes Trials

War crimes in Manchukuo were committed during the rule of the Empire of Japan in northeast China, either directly, or through its puppet state of Manchukuo, from 1931 to 1945. Various war crimes have been alleged, but have received comparatively little historical attention.

In Japan, the term "Japanese war crimes" generally only refers to cases tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, also known as the Tokyo Trials, following the end of the Pacific War. However, the tribunal did not prosecute war crimes allegations involving mid-ranking officers or more junior personnel. Those were dealt with separately in trials held in China and in the Soviet Union after the surrender of Japan.

Revisionist historians have contested that such crimes occurred. Right-wing nationalist groups in Japan dismiss some of the alleged war crimes as lies, or anti-Japanese propaganda, made or being made by the Peoples Republic of China to justify its occupation of Manchuria, and to place modern Japan in a negative light for modern political and foreign policy purposes.

Special Japanese military units conducted experiments on civilians and POWs in Manchukuo. One of the most infamous was Unit 731. Victims were subjected to vivisection without anesthesia, and were used to test biological weapons, among other experiments.[2]

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the experiments carried out by Unit 731 alone caused 3,000 deaths.[3]

According to historians Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Seiya Matsuno, Emperor Hirohito authorized the use of chemical weapons in China.[4] Furthermore, "tens of thousands, and perhaps as many 200,000, Chinese died of bubonic plague, cholera, anthrax and other diseases...", resulting from the use of biological warfare. Although there is no record of chemical or biological weapons in Manchukuo itself, these weapons of mass destruction were partly researched, produced, and stockpiled in Manchukuo by the Kwangtung Army.

The Japanese militarys use of forced labor also caused many deaths. According to a joint study of historians Zhifen Ju, Mitsuyochi Himeta, Toru Kubo and Mark Peattie, more than 10 million Chinese civilians were mobilized for forced labor in Manchukuo under the supervision of the Kōa-in.[5]

Forced laborers were often assigned work in dangerous conditions without adequate safety precautions. The worlds deadliest mine disaster, at Benxihu Colliery, occurred in Manchukuo.

In 2007, an article by Reiji Yoshida in the Japan Times argued that the Japanese investments in Manchukuo were partly financed by selling drugs. According to the article, a document claimed to have been found by Yoshida directly implicated the Kōa-in in providing funds to drug dealers in China for the benefit of the puppet governments of Manchukuo, Nanjing and Mongolia.[6] This document corroborates evidence analyzed earlier by the Tokyo tribunal which stated that

In late 1949, numerous members of the former Kwantung Army who had been captured in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria were convicted in connection with the activities of Unit 731, and related units for their connections with crimes against humanity and the use of chemical and biological weapons.

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East convicted a number of high Japanese officials in connection with the invasion of Manchuria, establishment of Manchukuo and with conspiracy to wage aggressive war against China. Those sentenced to death with strong connections to Manchukuo included senior officers in the Kwantung Army Hideki Tōjō, Akira Mutō, Seishirō Itagaki and Kenji Doihara.