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Foley Backs Japan on Forced Labor

January 19, 2000

TOKYO (AP) _ U.S. veterans cannot claim compensation from Japan over forced labor in World War II because of a peace treaty different than the one allies reached with Germany, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Foley said.

A number of U.S. prisoners of war accuse some of Japan’s biggest companies of using them as wartime forced labor and are suing for compensation. Many filed claims in California after a 1999 state law extended the deadline for such actions.

The companies, which include Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi International Corp., say the issue of reparations was covered in the 1951 peace treaty signed in San Francisco. The companies also say the statute of limitations has long since run out.

On Monday, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said the peace treaty allows for no further discussion of compensation.

Foley said Tuesday that the ministry’s comments are not likely to raise tensions. He said there was much suffering during the war, but agreed that the treaty with Japan explicitly renounces claims against Japan, unlike the accord with Germany.

Germany is setting up a fund to compensate victims of Nazi forced labor. Up to 2.3 million people, mostly non-Jews from Eastern Europe, forced to work under the Nazis could be eligible for payments.

German firms that used slave and forced labor sought the fund largely to receive protection from class-action lawsuits.

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