/

Hashimoto maintains he will still meet with sex-slavery victims, visit U.S.

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Osaka Mayor and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) coleader Toru Hashimoto said Thursday he still planned to meet Friday with two Korean former “comfort women” despite calls from both in and outside the party to cancel.

“There’s no change in the plans to meet,” the embattled Hashimoto said.

The meeting, scheduled to last 30 minutes, will be with two South Korean women currently traveling around Japan.

Hashimoto has been drawing continued global scorn for saying the wartime sex-slavery system was necessary at the time.

He declined comment on what he plans to tell the former comfort women, but he repeated earlier assertions that wartime claims between Japan and South Korea were settled in a 1965 bilateral treaty.

Hashimoto added that he still plans to travel to the U.S. in about three weeks even though no appointments have been set publicly with anyone in either San Francisco or New York. The San Francisco mayor’s office has slammed Hashimoto’s remarks, as have numerous women’s and human rights organizations in the area.

Opposition in the Osaka Municipal Assembly to what is seen as an expensive junket is growing, and senior members of Nippon Ishin are reportedly against the trip.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration also faces a potential diplomatic headache if Hashimoto is greeted by demonstrators in either city.