Japanese PM Taro Aso's family business used British PoWs

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In response to growing pressure from the opposition, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare confirmed that documents presented by shadow vice-defence Minister Yukihisa Fujita in parliament were authentic.

The papers, compiled in 1946 by Aso Mining, show that 101 British prisoners, 197 Australians and two Dutch were put to work digging coal for Japan's war effort in 1945. An estimated 10,000 Korean slave labourers were also put to work in the company's mines during the war. Aso Mining has since become Aso Cement and was headed by Mr Aso himself in the 1970s.

Mr Aso and his supporters have previously claimed that the authenticity of the paperwork could not be confirmed and cast doubt on foreign media accounts of the POW labour that first began appearing in 2006.

Shortly before Mr Aso, 67, was elected head of the Liberal Democratic Party and prime minister of the country, he was questioned about his family company's use of forced labourers at its pits in Kyushu, southern Japan.

"I was only 5 years old when the war ended, so I honestly have no personal recollection of that time," he said.

He used exactly the same response to Mr Fujita in the Diet in mid-November, adding that, "No facts have been confirmed."

The emergence of the documents now give Mr Aso little leeway.

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