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U.S. top court dismisses appeal over "comfort women" statue in Calif.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal filed by
Japanese-Americans seeking removal of a statue in California
symbolizing women who were forced to work in wartime Japanese
brothels.

The decision came despite the Japanese government's opinion
presented to the U.S. Supreme Court in February asking it to hold
hearings on the suit seeking the removal of the so-called "comfort
women" statue.

The Japanese government's top spokesman said Tuesday in Tokyo
that the movement to install the statue "conflicts with Japan's
position and is highly regrettable."

"We have been appropriately explaining (comfort women issue) to
those involved and seeking their understanding about the Japanese
government's basic stance and its efforts, and we want to continue
with this approach," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a
press conference.

The statue depicting a young woman in traditional Korean dress
was erected in a park in Glendale by a group of Korean-Americans and
others in 2013.

The erection prompted the Japanese-Americans to file a lawsuit,
claiming that the installation of the monument infringes the U.S.
federal government's power to set foreign policy.

After losing the first and second trials, the plaintiffs
appealed to the Supreme Court in January.

The plaintiffs had also filed a similar suit at a California
county court but saw their claim dismissed at the first and second
trials on the grounds that removal of the statue would hurt freedom
of expression.

"We will strive to realize the removal (of the statue) in a
different way hereafter," said Koichi Mera, the head of the
plaintiffs, in a statement after the Supreme Court's dismissal.

The U.S. top court's decision came at a time when Tokyo and
Seoul are embroiled in a diplomatic spat over similar statues in
South Korea.

The erection of a "comfort women" statue near the Japan
Consulate General in South Korea's Busan prompted Tokyo to recall its
envoy to South Korea Yasumasa Nagamine in January. (March 27)