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Tojo linked to 'comfort girls'

TOKYO -- A World War II telegram released Thursday linked Japan's wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo with the forced prostitution of hundreds of thousands of Asian women during the war, the Kyodo News Service reported.

Tojo, who was executed as a Class A war criminal after the war, was the prime minister of Japan when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the Pacific War.

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He was also Japan's war minister.

The telegram, released by Hideko Ito, a member of the opposition Social Democratic Party, contains a request to Tojo by the commander of the Japanese military in Taiwan for permission to dispatch three brothel operators to Borneo, the report said. The telegram was sent in 1942.

Several former comfort girls have brought suit against the Japanese government demanding $160,000 each in compensation. Historians say as many as 200,000 women were forced into brothels by the Japanese military.

The issue of the comfort girls dominated talks between Seoul and Tokyo when Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa visited South Korea last month.

Tokyo had denied government involvement with the comfort girls for decades until a scholar recently discovered documents that proved the now-defunct Imperial Army abducted women and ran the brothels.

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The government had maintained that the operations were privately run.

Tokyo reversed its position and apologized during the Seoul visit, but refused to offer compensation to South Korea, claiming it had settled the issue of compensation when the two countries restored diplomatic ties in 1965.

Japan annexed the Korean peninsula in 1910, and ran it as a colony until the end of the war.

Recent reports revealed the Imperial Army was directly invovled in the daily management of the brothels, called 'comfort centers,' including medical treatment and setting prices.

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