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Monday, January 12, 1998 Published at 08:02 GMT


Hopes for Japanese war compensation
image: [ Former PoWs want an official apology for their suffering ]
Former PoWs want an official apology for their suffering

British officials are optimistic that the Japanese government will offer a friendly gesture on the question of compensation for ex-prisoners of war during a meeting with Tony Blair.

Mr Blair is raising the issue with the Prime Minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto, during his five-day visit to Japan.

[ image: Tony Blair is on a five-day tour of Japan]
Tony Blair is on a five-day tour of Japan
In the past the Japanese government has insisted that the question of compensation for British prisoners of war has been settled.

In 1951 PoWs received a modest amount of money as part of the San Francisco peace treaty.

But since then survivors have campaigned for more, saying their suffering has not been adequately recompensed.

[ image: Hashimo: under pressure for compensation]
Hashimo: under pressure for compensation
The Japanese are anxious to resolve the issue before the Emperor visits Britain in May and the government has now indicated that it may be ready to offer a new gesture of reconciliation.

It is unlikely to be in the form of cash, according to BBC correspondent Juliet Hindell, but it could be an official apology and funds for a trip to Japan to receive it.

Former prisoners of war may not be satisfied given that they have already made numerous trips to Japan to pursue their compensation case in the courts.

In 1995 the Japanese Prime Minister of the time, Tomiichi Murayama, offered a "heartfelt apology" for his country's aggression.

But British war veterans were not impressed. They said it was a personal apology and they are still demanding one in the name of the Japanese government as a whole.

[ image: Titherington: suffered
Titherington: suffered "vile and evil treatment"
Arthur Titherington, a veteran of the Singapore conflict in 1942, was held by the Japanese in Taiwan for more than three years.

He is one 9,000 labour camp association members demanding recompense.

"Our action against the Japanese government is for compensation and a meaningful apology for what happened to us as prisoners of war - the unecessary vile and evil treatment and starvation that we suffered for those three and a half years," he said.

However, as time passes, more and more former prisoners of war are dying. This, say the veterans, makes the need for compensation even more urgent.


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