People’s Daily: Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the end of NATO’s bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. After an international legal team filed lawsuits against NATO on behalf of 3,000 victims over the horrific consequences of up to 15 tons of depleted uranium bombs NATO dropped in 1999, NATO responded by saying it has immunity from prosecution. Do you have any comment?
Zhao Lijian: Twenty-three years ago, US-led NATO blatantly bombarded the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for 78 days without the approval of the UN Security Council. In total, NATO dropped nearly 420,000 bombs weighing 22,000 tons, including 15 tons of depleted uranium bombs. Over 2,500 people including 79 children were killed and more than one million people became refugees as a direct result of the bombings.
What is more heart-wrenching is that death and agony brought by the war lingered for generations till this day. As noted by experts, exposure to radiation emitted by depleted uranium bombs can show no symptom for years and depleted uranium bombs have long-term impact on the environment and human food-chain. In the 10 years after the bombing, about 30,000 people in Serbia developed cancer, among whom 10,000 died. According to the Institute of Public Health of Belgrade, by the end of 2019, the number of registered cancer patients in Serbia was as high as 97,000. A study of the Serbian emergency center shows that among children born in Serbia after 1999, many aged between one and five suffered from ectodermal tumors, many aged between five and nine contracted hematological malignancies, and there is a clear uptick in the morbidity rate of brain cancer among those aged between nine and 18. Besides, by May 2019, 366 Italian military personnel who participated in the NATO military operations have died of cancer, and 7,500 have fallen sick.
However, till this day, the US — the country that sent military aircraft to drop depleted uranium bombs over Serbia and the inventor of this type of bombs as well as the only country that has ever used them — continues to deny that depleted uranium bombs can directly cause Gulf War syndrome and Kosovo syndrome. During the Gulf War, the US dropped far more depleted uranium bombs over Iraq. NATO is also trying to get away with it by claiming immunity from prosecution. Such moves by the US-led NATO are shocking. Neither the Serbian people, nor people elsewhere in the world seeking justice, will ever agree to this. The US-led NATO should earnestly reflect on its war crimes, and provide a reasonable explanation and compensations to the victims of depleted uranium bombs as soon as possible. NATO must also seriously learn the lesson and stop creating new turmoil and division across the world.
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