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Monday, January 12, 1998 Published at 15:00 GMT


Japan apologises for wartime suffering
image: [ Around 9,000 former PoWs have been demanding an apology and compensation ]
Around 9,000 former PoWs have been demanding an apology and compensation

The Japanese Prime Minister has issued an official apology for his country's actions in the Second World War.

In a meeting with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto offered "an expression of deep remorse and heartfelt apology to the people who suffered in the Second World War."

[ image: Tony Blair is on a five-day visit to Japan]
Tony Blair is on a five-day visit to Japan
But confusion followed over whether this apology goes any further than a personal apology offered by Mr Hashimoto's predecessor in 1995, which failed to satisfy former prisoners of war.

British officials say the apology was made with the agreement of the entire Japanese government.

The BBC's Robin Oakley assesses the significance of the apology (1'49")
But a Japanese spokesman said Mr Hashimoto had only been repeating the formula of former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama three years ago, later qualified as a personal apology.

Britain's war veterans had been hoping for an apology from the entire government.

In addition to today's apology, Mr Hashimoto announced three initiatives to promote reconciliation which would cost the Japanese Government more than £800,000 this year.

These include joint pilgrimages by British and Japanese war veterans to old battlefields and cemeteries, scholarships for the grandchildren of British prisoners of war and a doubling of the number of visits to Japan by former prisoners of war and their grandchildren.

[ image: Hashimoto:
Hashimoto: "heartfelt apology"
Mr Blair, who is on a five-day visit to Japan, expressed to Mr Hashimoto "the hope that, while people would never forget, we would be able to focus on the things that tie us together, given that our relations are actually very good."

Some 9,000 labour camp association members had been demanding an apology and compensation for their treatment as prisoners of war.

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.

The Japanese are anxious to resolve the issue before the Emperor visits Britain in May and the government had indicated that it may be ready to offer a new gesture of reconciliation.

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British Foreign Office

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