China has expressed outrage over remarks by an outspoken Japanese mayor who said his country's forced prostitution of Asian women during World War II was "necessary," while the Japanese government distanced itself from the comments.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Tuesday the forced recruitment of so called "comfort women was a serious crime of Japanese militarism." He said China expressed "shock and strong indignation toward Japanese politicians who challenge...historical justice."
South Korea also denounced the comments and demanded an apology.
Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto, an outspoken populist who has often stirred controversy, said Monday that Japan's use of wartime "comfort women" was necessary at the time to maintain military discipline for soldiers "risking their lives under a storm of bullets."
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined direct comment on Hashimoto's remarks but said the government feels "great heartache when we think about the indescribable suffering of those who experienced this.''
He said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet holds the same view on the matter as previous Japanese governments.
In a landmark 1993 statement, Japan offered "sincere apologies" for the "immeasurable pain and suffering" inflicted on comfort women. Two years later, Tokyo issued a broader apology expressing "deep remorse" for war suffering.
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 during the Second World War.