An outspoken Japanese politician apologized yesterday for saying US troops should patronize adult entertainment businesses as a way to reduce sex crimes, but defended another inflammatory remark about Japan’s use of sex slaves before and during World War II.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who is also the co-head of an emerging nationalistic party, said his remarks two weeks ago rose from a “sense of crisis” about cases of sexual assaults by US military personnel on Japanese civilians in Okinawa, where a large number of US troops are based under a bilateral security treaty.
“I understand that my remark could be construed as an insult to the US forces and to the American people” and was inappropriate, he said at a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Tokyo. “I retract this remark and express an apology.”
Hashimoto had created an uproar with comments to journalists two weeks ago about Japan’s modern and wartime sexual services. They added to recent anger in neighboring countries that suffered from Japan’s wartime aggression and have complained about the lack of atonement for atrocities committed during that time.
Hashimoto said on May 13 that on a recent visit to Okinawa, he suggested to the US commander there that the troops there “make better use” of the legal sex industry, saying: “If you don’t make use of those places, you cannot control the sexual energy of those tough guys.”
He also said that Japan’s wartime practice of forcing women from across Asia, but mostly from South Korea and China, to work in front-line brothels was necessary to maintain discipline and provide relaxation for soldiers.