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Official: Mitsubishi may extend WWII apology to others

Yukio Okamoto, Outside Board Member of Mitsubishi Materials and former Special Advisor to Japan's Prime Minister, left, and Hikaru Kimura, Senior Executive Officer Mitsubishi Materials, offer an apology as they hold hands with 94-year-old U.S. prisoner of war, James Murphy, at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, Sunday, July 19, 2015. Some 12,000 American prisoners were shipped to Japan and forced to work at more than 50 sites to support imperial Japan's war effort, and about 10 percent died, according to Kinue Tokudome, director of the U.S.-Japan Dialogue on POWs, who has spearheaded the lobbying effort for companies to apologize. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

TOKYO (AP) — An outside director of Mitsubishi Materials said Wednesday that the company hopes to apologize to former British, Dutch and Australian World War II POWs, and also reach an amicable agreement with Chinese forced laborers, following a landmark apology to American POWs earlier this week.

“If there is such an opportunity, we will do the same apology,” Yukio Okamoto told foreign media, saying the POWs brought to Japan were subjected to inexcusable labor conditions. “What other companies will do, we don’t know. … Ours is one of those who tortured POWs most, so we have to apologize.”

Okamoto, a former diplomat, was among company officials who delivered an apology to surviving POWs and family members on Sunday in Los Angeles for about 900 Americans forced to work in Mitsubishi mines and factories.

Japan invaded China before and during the war, and Chinese who were sent to work in Japan and their descendants are suing Mitsubishi for compensation in China.

“We are making our best effort to come to an amicable solution with the victims,” Okamoto said.

“I personally sympathize a great deal with Chinese forced laborers,” he added. “I think we will have to apologize … (and) they are demanding reparation, and that is in a court, so this will be a solution with money.”

One day earlier, China’s state news agency Xinhua called the apology to Americans “selective” and accused Japan of a “double standard on wartime atrocities.”

Koreans were also forced to work, but Okamoto said he believes their legal situation is different. Japan colonized Korea in 1910, so Koreans were technically Japanese citizens ordered to work as were all Japanese under a 1938 general mobilization law.

A South Korean government commission on victims of forced mobilization under colonial rule estimates that 6,489 Koreans worked for Mitsubishi-owned companies, including 4,105 for Mitsubishi Mining, the predecessor company of Mitsubishi Materials Corp.

The legality aside, Okamoto minced no words about the annexation, describing it as the “greatest sin” Japan committed against Korea.

“The fundamental sin, as I said at the outset, was the annexation of Korea, obliterating their national identities,” he said. “We did not allow Koreans to use their own name, use their language. We even forced Shintoism on them to create second-class Japanese citizens.”

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Associated Press writer Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul contributed to this story.

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