Japan has started its first investigation into Unit 731, the germ and biological warfare programme where prisoners of war were allegedly experimented on during World War II. Excavations began on Monday at a former army medical school to search for human remains in a sign that the government is open to the possibility of facing its long-kept wartime secrets.

Unit 731’s activities have never been officially acknowledged by the government even though historians and participants have documented them. Yesterday’s evacuation follows a former nurse’s revelation that she helped bury body parts there as American forces began occupying Tokyo at the end of the war.

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