US veterans accept Mitsubishi apology
JAPAN’S Mitsubishi Materials made a landmark apology on Sunday to US prisoners of war forced to work in its mines during World War II, seven decades after the conflict.
The Japanese Government only officially apologised to former American POWs five years ago, and Mitsubishi’s initiative appeared to be the first of its kind by a Japanese corporation.
Senior Mitsubishi executive Hikaru Kimura presented a “most remorseful apology” to 94- year- old James Murphy of California, one of just a few surviving US prisoners forced to work in Japan.
Mr Murphy accepted “sincere, humble” apology.
“For 70 years since the war ended, the prisoners of war who worked for these Japanese companies have asked for something very simple – they asked for an apology,” he said.
“We hope to extend Mitsubishi’s gracious coming forward at this time to all the other mines and factories who employed American POWs against their will.”
Mr Kimura and other company representatives met earli-
the er with Mr Murphy and families of other former POWs “to express our most remorseful apology for their being subjected to hard labour during World War II, when they worked in mines operated by Mitsubishi”, he said.
The sprawling conglomerate, which now makes everything from cement to electronics, forced about 900 POWs to work at four mines in Japan.
Thousands of other US prisoners were pushed into slave labour at Japanese firms during the war.
“Working conditions were extremely harsh and the POWs were subjected to severe hardship,” he recognised.
Board member Yukio Okamoto said Mitsubishi’s past facilitation of forced labour had tormented him and his colleagues.
“I entered the room with a heavy heart seeking forgiveness but instead of grievances, I was met with generosity and forgiveness,” he said.
Although it was unclear what prompted the apology, it came as nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prepares to make what he says will be a “forward- looking” statement on the 70th anniversary of Japan’s World War II defeat.
Mr Abe has said he does not think it appropriate to continually apologise for events more than seven decades ago.
A third- generation politician whose grandfather was a World War II cabinet member and became a post- war prime minister, Mr Abe has long agitated for revision of the country’s pacifist constitution.
US occupying forces imposed the constitution in the aftermath of the war.