The families of 18 former Chinese "comfort women" who claim to have worked in Japan's wartime military brothels have filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government, demanding an apology and compensation in what is believed to be the first such suit against Tokyo filed in China.

The suit was filed earlier this month with a high court in Shanxi Province, a lawyer for the families of the deceased women said Monday. The plaintiffs have asked that 2 million yuan ($276,000) be paid for each former comfort woman.

Similar damages suits filed by former Chinese comfort women in Japan have all been turned down. However, the families took the action following a South Korean court ruling last year in favor of a group of former comfort women, according to the lawyer.

The court is expected to decide in about a month whether to accept the suit.

The lawyer said the plaintiffs aim to receive "sincere apologies" from the Japanese government.

A series of lawsuits filed by former Chinese comfort women in the 1990s and 2000s were rejected, with Japan's Supreme Court saying in 2007 that individual rights to seek damages were abandoned under the 1972 Japan-China Joint Communique.

In the communique, the Chinese government declared it "renounces its demand for war reparation from Japan," but it does not explicitly refer to the individuals' right of claim.

File photo taken in Tokyo in April 2007 shows a lawyer (C, front row) holding a banner saying "unfair ruling" after Japan's Supreme Court rejected Chinese plaintiffs' claims. (Kyodo)

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