British POWs snubbed as Japan apologises to US veterans

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British prisoners of war condemned the Japanese government after it offered US veterans a full apology and invited them to visit the country while ignoring the plight of those from the UK.

Ichiro Fujisaki, Japan's ambassador to Washington, apologised for the "tragic experiences" of the American survivors of the Bataan Death March, in which 20,000 US servicemen died after Imperial forces overran their defensive positions in the Philippines in April 1942.

Speaking at a gathering of survivors in Texas, he invited them to attend memorial events and stay in the homes of Japanese people during an official visit next year. "We extend a heartfelt apology for our country having caused tremendous damage and suffering to many people, including prisoners of war, those who have undergone tragic experiences in the Bataan Peninsula, in Corregidor Island in the Philippines and other places," he said.

But British prisoners of the Japanese described the apology and invitation as an "underhanded and empty gesture".

The ambassador's comments have been seen as a breakthrough in the way that Japan considers its history in the early decades of the last century.

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