Japanese who were separated from their families in China at the end of World War II have agreed to accept a new support plan and to drop their lawsuits filed with 10 district courts and six high courts over the government’s failure to swiftly bring them back to Japan and provide adequate support. Although some view the government plan as aimed at getting votes in this month’s Upper House election, the move is welcome. The government, which plans to submit a related bill to the Diet this fall, can now fulfill its long-overdue responsibility toward those people, now elderly, who suffered grievously from the war and its consequences.

Under Japan’s colonial policy during the 1930s and ’40s, the families of these war-displaced people had moved to Manchukuo, a puppet state established in northeast China in 1932 by Japan, to farm the land. Many children were orphaned in the chaos at the end of the war caused by the Soviet army’s invasion of Manchukuo and later raised by Chinese.

After the normalization of diplomatic ties between Japan and China in 1972, many of the war-displaced people started visiting Japan to look for relatives and to resettle here. It wasn’t until 1981 that the government started inviting them in groups to assist in the search for their relatives. In December 2002, about 630 war-displaced people filed a damages suit with the Tokyo District Court against the government for its failure to extend adequate help. The number of plaintiffs has swelled to about 2,200.

Under the new support plan, war orphans from China will receive the full public pension payment of 66,000 yen a month. A single-member household will receive up to an additional 80,000 yen a month in financial support. At present, they receive 80,000 yen a month including pension. The government will also pay their medical and housing expenses. Most them have difficulty speaking Japanese and are on welfare. The plan is expected to cover more than 5,000 people. The government must rectify any inadequacies in the plan. Efforts also must be made to convey the war-orphans’ experience to future generations as a lesson of what the state’s war policy brought about.

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