A Japanese politician who drew fire for calling “comfort women” a wartime necessity has been forced to apologize for suggesting US soldiers in Okinawa visit brothels to vent their violent frustrations.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto had suggested that US servicemen in the southern prefecture of Okinawa, where relations are frequently tested by violent crimes, including rapes and assaults, patronize legal sex businesses there.
As the remark triggered disgust in the US and outrage in Okinawa, Hashimoto said he would retract it at a press conference scheduled for tomorrow at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Tokyo.
“The word ‘sex businesses’ was inappropriate,” he said in a program on Saturday by YTV broadcaster. “I must apologize to the US military and American people and retract my comment” at the Monday press conference.
However, Hashimoto said he has no intention of retracting his other controversial comment that “comfort women” served a “necessary” role during World War II in keeping soldiers in line, a remark that set off a volley of criticism from countries under Japan’s rule in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as from the US.
Most historians agree the Asian women were pressed into sexual slavery for the Japanese imperial army.
Hashimoto has insisted Japan’s soldiers were not unique in brutalizing women.
On Friday, Hashimoto said his original remarks were misinterpreted.
“I happen to have used the word ‘necessity,’ but it doesn’t mean I personally meant it was necessary,” he said. “I mean that it is a historical truth that soldiers were using women. Was it not necessary for them?”
Hashimoto was scheduled to meet a pair of former so-called comfort women on Friday, but the elderly South Korean women canceled over fears of becoming political pawns in a long-running diplomatic dispute that has stoked tensions between Tokyo and Seoul.
Sex slavery is a particularly sensitive issue in Korea, a former Japanese colony whose people made up many of the up to 200,000 comfort women forcibly drafted into brothels for the Japanese military during World War II.