US soldiers should use more prostitutes to cut sex crimes, says Japanese mayor
Toru Hashimoto also justifies use of wartime sex slaves as ‘necessary evil’
Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto who said Japan’s system of military brothels during the second World War was a “necessary evil”. Photograph: Reuters
One of Japan’s leading politicians has poisoned already toxic relations with China and South Korea by saying that wartime sex slaves were a necessary evil.
Toru Hashimoto, who is mayor of Osaka and co-leader of the right-wing Japan Restoration Party, also said “American soldiers should use more prostitutes. Soldiers are put in extreme situations in which they can lose their lives”, he told the US military commander in Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost prefecture and home to 75 per cent of American bases in the country. “They are overflowing with energy. We have to think about the way they can let it out somewhere.”
Mr Hashimoto said that when he made the suggestion earlier this month, the commander “appeared frozen, smiled wryly and said it is banned”. A Pentagon spokesperson later called the suggestion “ridiculous”.
The son of a small-time gangster, Mr Hashimoto is tipped as a future prime minister, despite a string of controversial bon mots. In 2011 he said that Japan needed a dictatorship and should revise its “pacifist” constitution. “Not being able to have a war on its own is the most pitiful thing about Japan,” he has said.
Speaking yesterday, he again denied that Japan forcibly rounded up Asian woman as sex slaves, known euphemistically as “comfort women”.He then appeared to suggest that the practice was a part of war.
“To maintain discipline in the military, it must have been necessary at that time. For soldiers who risked their lives in circumstances where bullets are flying around like rain and wind, if you want them to get some rest, a comfort women system was necessary. That’s clear to anyone.”
Historians widely agree that the Japanese military may have enslaved up to 200,000 Asian women during the second World War, mainly from China and Korea. Japanese nationalists have long argued that the women were prostitutes recruited voluntarily from local populations.
Prime minister Shinzo Abe has threatened to reverse Japan’s long-standing position on the issue and retract an official apology. But he has recently appeared to pull in his horns, arguing that he does not want to make it a political or diplomatic issue.
South Korea reacted strongly to Mr Hashimoto’s comments yesterday and said Japan should “stop distorting history” and “contemplate the pain and suffering it brought to its neighbours”.
Tokyo is involved in separate territorial disputes with both Seoul and Beijing and has angered both countries with a series of incidents that appear to suggest a lack of contrition for the war.