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East Asia Turmoil
After Seizing Ship, China Threatens Japan With More WWII Lawsuits

The Chinese court case that ended with the seizure of a Japanese ship could be just the first in a flurry of lawsuits stemming from World War II. If China’s courts continue to accept such lawsuits, the move “could potentially expose Japanese companies to hundreds of millions of dollars in liability,” the FT reports.

“In the past, the Chinese government was not very supportive of the civil lawsuits filed against Japanese entities because they wanted to maintain a sort of diplomatic consistency,” one analyst told the FT. “Now given the Japanese government, especially the Abe administration’s attitude towards history, the Chinese government has gradually given up the policies in the past and begun to offer a certain degree of convenience for individuals filing court cases.”

Chinese and South Korean researchers are collaborating on the lawsuits. In one that accuses Japanese companies Mitsubishi and Nippon Coke of coercing tens of thousands of Chinese into forced labor, there could be 9,000 plaintiffs, each seeking $1m and an apology. Last year a Korean court ordered two other Japanese companies to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation to men, some of whom had died, who had been forced to work for the companies decades ago.

It will be difficult, however, for courts to open themselves up to many more of these lawsuits. They are extremely complicated, shrouded by time and competing claims and the chaos of the end of World War II. Many potential plaintiffs are aging or have already died. Their families sometimes can’t carry on with the cause.

Nevertheless, the trend comes as President Obama attempts an already delicate balancing act during his upcoming trip to the region. For one thing, the more soothing and conciliatory Obama is to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the more abrasive China’s response will be, and the more likely Beijing is to strike shady deals with the Kremlin that annoy Washington. The lawsuits being flung at Japanese companies by Chinese and South Korean courts are a good indicator of the tense environment in East Asia. President Obama has some hard decisions to make on this trip. It will be illuminative for the future of the “pivot,” and the future of East Asian politics, to hear what he says over the next few days.

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  • RealityHurtsBadly

    You called dealing with Russia a “shady” deal ? You do not even bother to mention the “Incovenient” fact that US and EU deal with the Neo-Nazi regime in Kiev ! What a biased and hypocrite article !

    • Andrew Allison

      FSB trolls should be better trained in English comprehension.

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