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Thousands of people from China, Korea and the Philippines have been denied the right to pursue lawsuits in U.S. courts against Japanese companies they say enslaved them during World War II. The lawsuits were filed by former prisoners of war who say they were forced to work in mines, dig roads and perform other hazardous duties. U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of the Northern District of California said Wednesday that Filipinos could not sue because their country was a signatory to the Treaty of Peace, which had also been signed by the United States and Japan. He said allowing the suits to proceed could “unsettle half a century of diplomacy” between the nations that signed the treaty in the 1950s. The judge also nullified a California law under which Chinese and Korean former prisoners had sued the Japanese companies. The law had allowed victims of World War II atrocities from anywhere in the world to sue for damages in California. The judge said the law “infringes on the federal government’s exclusive power over foreign affairs.” Companies targeted in the slave-labor suits included Mitsubishi Corp., Nippon Steel Corp. and Japan Energy Corp. Officials of the targeted companies said they had no comment on Wednesday’s ruling. The decision came a year after Walker ruled that Americans who said they were enslaved by the same companies could not sue for damages. He ruled that the Treaty of Peace barred Americans from seeking retribution. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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