News / Asia

Japan's Mayor Denies He Meant to Excuse Wartime Brothels

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto speaks during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo, May 27, 2013.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto speaks during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo, May 27, 2013.
Reuters
Outspoken Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, seeking to quell an international furor, denied on Monday that he had ever meant to excuse Japan's wartime military brothels and said Japan should apologize to the Asian and other women forced to work there.
 
Still, in comments likely to keep the controversy alive Hashimoto said historical research was needed to determine whether Japan “as a state” was directly involved in human trafficking of the “comfort women”, as those who worked in the brothels are euphemistically known in Japan.
 
He also urged other countries to face up to the possibility of similar offenses regarding “sex and the battlefield”.
       
Hashimoto, the populist co-leader of a small right-wing party, sparked a storm of criticism at home and abroad when he said earlier this month that the military brothels had been “necessary” at the time and that Japan had been unfairly singled out for practices common among other militaries during wartime.
 
Those remarks have further eroded dwindling voter support for his once-rising Japan Restoration Party, making it a less attractive potential ally for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he eyes sensitive revisions to the country's pacifist post-war constitution.
      
Hashimoto did not withdraw his remarks but said they had been reported only in part, and had been misunderstood.
   
“I am totally in agreement that the use of 'comfort women' by Japanese soldiers before and during the World War II was an inexcusable act that violated the dignity and human rights of the women in which large numbers of Korean and Japanese were included,”
 
Hashimoto said at the start of a nearly three-hour news conference before foreign and domestic media.
 
“I also strongly believe that Japan must reflect upon its past offenses with humility and express a heartfelt apology and regret to those women who suffered from the wartime atrocities as comfort women,” he said in an English version of the statement. “I have never condoned the use of comfort women.”
 
Kono statement
 
Hashimoto's popularity has waned and the “comfort women” controversy has added to his woes. Only 3 percent of voters plan to cast their ballots for his party in a July upper house election, down six percentage points from an April questionnaire, a survey by the Nikkei business daily showed.
      
The issue of the “comfort women” - most of whom were Asian and many Korean - has long been a point of contention between Tokyo and Seoul. Japan says the matter of compensation for the women was settled under a 1965 treaty establishing diplomatic ties with South Korea.
 
In 1995 Japan set up at fund to make payments to the women from private donations, but Seoul says that was unofficial and therefore insufficient.
Hashimoto said that given the dispute over compensation, Seoul should take the issue to the International Court of Justice, a suggestion which brought a sharp rebuke from South Korea.
       
“I think Japan's recent ... remarks are throwing cold water onto our government's will to strengthen friendship between Korea and Japan more than ever,” Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told reporters.
     
“If such circumstances do not improve, not only summit-level but other high-ranking exchanges won't be that easy,” Yun added.

Abe controversy
      
Japanese Prime Minister Abe caused controversy during his first term in 2006-2007 by saying there was no proof that Japan's military had kidnapped women to work in the brothels.
   
He has, however, sought to distance himself from Hashimoto's remarks and his government has drawn back from early signals that it might revise a landmark 1993 statement by then-Chief Cabinet Minister Yohei Kono that acknowledged military involvement in coercing the women, and apologized to them.
 
Hashimoto said there was no doubt that women had been coerced into working in the brothels, and that Japan's military supervised the facilities and in some cases provided military vehicles and ships to transport the women.
 
But he said the Kono Statement was ambiguous on whether Japan “as a state” had been involved in human trafficking, and called for joint research by Japanese and South Korean scholars into that point.
 
Hashimoto also apologized for and retracted his remark that U.S. soldiers currently stationed on Japan's Okinawa Island should use the local sex industry more to “control their sexual energies”. Okinawa is host to the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan, and many residents object to their presence, which they associate with sexual and other crimes as well as pollution and accidents.
      
A Pentagon spokesman told the Asahi newspaper that Hashimoto's original remarks went against the policies and values of the U.S. forces.
 
Hashimoto said his comment reflected his wish that the United States take needed measures to alleviate the suffering caused in Okinawa by crimes committed by the U.S. military.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More