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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid