A Japanese court has rejected a claim for compensation filed by Chinese citizens who say they were forced to work as slave labourers during World War II.
Nearly half of the plaintiffs have died since filing the suit in 1997
The 42 Chinese had demanded compensation worth $7.2 million, because they were forced to work on Japanese construction sites and mines between 1944 and 1945.
But presiding judge Mariko Watahiki dismissed the case saying that too many years had passed to rule on the claims.
Wartime compensation suits
July 2001: Chinese labourer awarded 20 million yen, government appealing
April 2002: Mitsui Mining ordered to pay compensation to former labourers
July 2002: Tokyo Court rejects suit by Chinese victims of biological warfare
January 2003: Kyoto court rejects suit by 6 Chinese miners
The failure of the case is the latest in a long line of wartime compensation cases filed against Japanese companies or the government, most of which have been rejected by the courts.
Toshitaka Onodera, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said that they would appeal against the ruling.
"This legal judgement does not contain any justice, fairness or reason," he said.
The plaintiffs had brought the case against 10 Japanese companies and the Japanese government, whom it said had organised the importation of slave labour.
In wartime Japan, Chinese people were abducted, confined and forced into slave labour
Toshitaka Onodera, attorney for the plaintiffs
Both Japanese foreign ministry officials and Furukawa Electric, one of the companies accused of using forced labour, were said to be pleased with the result.
Tens of thousands of Korean and Chinese labourers were brought to Japan in order to supplement the Japanese war effort at little or no cost.
"In wartime Japan, Chinese people were abducted, confined and forced into slave labour," said attorney Toshitaka Onodera.
"It was completely amoral," he said.
But Japanese courts normally back the government's position, that all claims were settled in bilateral peace treaties signed after the end of the war.
In recent years the courts have rejected similar claims by Chinese victims of biological experiments, and by the so called "comfort women" who were forced to serve in army brothels.