Japanese mayor apologises over US troops rape comments

Politician defends remark about Japan’s use of sex slaves during second World War

 Mayor Toru Hashimoto: ’I understand that my remark could be construed as an insult to the US forces and to the American people’

Mayor Toru Hashimoto: ’I understand that my remark could be construed as an insult to the US forces and to the American people’

 

A Japanese politician apologised today for saying US troops should frequent adult entertainment businesses as a way to reduce rapes.

However, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto defended another controversial remark about Japan’s use of sex slaves during the second World War.

Mr 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.

“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.

Mr Hashimoto had created an uproar with comments to journalists two weeks ago about Japan’s wartime and modern sexual services. They added to recent anger in neighbouring countries that suffered from Japan’s wartime aggression and have complained about the lack of atonement for atrocities committed during that time.

Mr Hashimoto said on May 13th that on a recent visit to the southern island of Okinawa, he suggested to the US commander there that the troops there “to make better use” of the legal sex industry. “If you don’t make use of those places you cannot control the sexual energy of those tough guys,” he said.

He also said that Japan’s wartime practice of forcing Asian women, mostly from South Korea and China, to work in front-line brothels was necessary to maintain discipline and provide relaxation for soldiers.

He did not apologise for those comments, but he did call the use of so-called comfort women an “inexcusable act that violated the dignity and human rights of the women, in which large numbers of Korean and Japanese were included”.

Still, he claimed he had been quoted out of context to say that he personally believed that the use of a “comfort women” system was necessary. He was trying to say that armed forces of nations around the world “seem to have needed women” in past wars and also violated women’s human rights during wartime.

Singling out Japan was wrong, as this issue also existed in the armed forces of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the former Soviet Union during the second World War, he alleged.

“Based on the premise that Japan must remorsefully face its past offenses and must never justify the offenses, I intended to argue that other nations in the world must not attempt to conclude the matter by blaming only Japan and by associating Japan alone with the simple phrase of ‘sex slaves’ or ‘sex slavery,’” Mr Hashimoto said in the statement.

Historians say up to 200,000 women, mainly from the Korean Peninsula and China, were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers in military brothels. While some other second World War armies had military brothels, Japan is the only country accused of such widespread, organised sexual slavery.

Mr Hashimoto (43), has become well-known in recent years for his outspokenness. Last year, he formed a conservative party, the Japan Restoration Party, with former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, a strident nationalist. The party is now an opposition party in the parliament.

Before taking office in December, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had advocated revising a 1993 statement by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono acknowledging and expressing remorse for the suffering caused to the sex slaves. Mr Abe has said recently he stands by that statement and won’t revise it.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.