WASHINGTON — The US Justice Department recognized Friday that "mistakes" were made in its legal defense of the forced relocation and internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii by the Imperial Japanese Navy, the United States forcibly displaced over 110,000 people of Japanese descent and held them at internment camps during the war. Most were US citizens.

"The solicitor general was largely responsible for the defense of those policies," Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal said in a statement on the agency's website.

Katyal, who represents the US federal government before the Supreme Court, noted that his predecessor many years ago ignored a US Naval Intelligence report that found that only a small portion of Japanese Americans may pose a threat.

"Instead, he argued that it was impossible to segregate loyal Japanese Americans from disloyal ones... And to make matters worse, he relied on gross generalizations about Japanese Americans, such as that they were disloyal and motivated by 'racial solidarity,'" added Katyal.

Writing on the occasion of Asian American Pacific Islander history month, he said court decisions that upheld convictions for Japanese Americans "still stand today as a reminder of the mistakes of that era."

"Today, our Office takes this history as an important reminder that the 'special credence' the solicitor general enjoys before the Supreme Court requires great responsibility and a duty of absolute candor in our representations to the Court," Katyal continued.

"Only then can we fulfill our responsibility to defend the United States and its Constitution, and to protect the rights of all Americans."