• Kyodo

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The U.S. administration sought to distance itself Thursday from legislative moves in Congress that would empower former Allied prisoners of war to claim compensation from Japanese companies that used them as slave laborers during World War II.

“We sympathize greatly with the plight that they suffered. But at the same time, the 1951 treaty explicitly waived those claims,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in reference to the San Francisco peace treaty.

His statement is in line with Tokyo’s position that redress issues involving forced labor by the Imperial Japanese military were settled under the San Francisco treaty.

Earlier this month, two U.S. congressmen from California — Republican Dana Rohrabacher and Democrat Michael Honda — submitted the “Justice for the United States POWs Act” bill to the House of Representatives that would, if enacted, allow redress claims to be filed in U.S. state courts until 2010.

The congressional move to seek reparations from Japanese firms over wartime forced labor was prompted by a 1999 California statute allowing former POWs held by Japan, Germany and their allies to file suits until 2010.

Based on that law, scores of suits have been filed in California courts by ex-POWs against Japanese firms.

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