WASHINGTON – Two U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday urged Japan to distance itself clearly from an outspoken politician who said the “comfort women” forced to provide sex during the war were a military necessity.
In comments that prompted outrage in South Korea and China, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said Imperial Japanese soldiers who faced death needed to relax and suggested that U.S. troops in modern-day Japan make use of the sex industry.
Rep. Mike Honda, who spearheaded a 2007 House resolution that took Japan to task on the issue, called Hashimoto’s remarks “repulsive” and said the comfort women, using Japan’s euphemism for the wartime sex slaves, suffered “horrific” physical and psychological scars.
Honda, who was detained as a child during World War II due to his Japanese ancestry, said he believed “reconciliation through appropriate government action admitting error is the only resolution likely to be long-lasting.”
Rep. Steve Israel said he was “disgusted” and that Japanese officials should offer apologies to aging former comfort women instead of “abhorrent” explanations.
“I strongly condemn Mayor Hashimoto’s remarks and continue to urge the Japanese government to offer a formal acknowledgement and apology for the atrocities committed by its Imperial armed forces during World War II,” Israel said.
In a 1993 statement in the name of then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, Tokyo offered “sincere apologies” to the women, who were forced into sexual servitude for the Imperial forces in Japanese-occupied territories, including the Korean Peninsula, annexed in 1910, and China, occupied from the early 1930s.
In 1995, Japan issued a broader apology expressing “deep remorse” for war suffering.
The 1993 statement remains a sore point for nationalists who contend that authorities did not directly force comfort women into sex and that the system was set up to prevent random rape.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, known for his conservative views on history, did not comment directly on Hashimoto’s remarks but said Japan shared the pain of survivors and stood by past statements.