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Ishihara accepts Hashimoto’s apology over remarks that hurt their party

Kyodo, JIJI

Toru Hashimoto has apologized to Shintaro Ishihara, his Nippon Ishin No Kai (Japan Restoration Party) co-leader, over the fallout from his recent globally contentious remarks, and thus the two have reconciled, party officials said Friday ahead of a key poll.

Ishihara had been angry at Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka, for the damage to the party’s popularity ratings caused by his recent remarks that the wartime “comfort women” system of sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers was necessary at the time. Hashimoto has not retracted his remarks and Ishihara, a rightwing hawk known for his own anti-foreigner outbursts and contentious stances on Japan’s wartime history, has not disagreed with his opinion.

The purported reconciliation came just ahead of Sunday’s Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election and in the lead-up to the July election for the House of Councilors.

On Thursday, Hashimoto phoned Ishihara and apologized for causing trouble to the party through his comfort women remarks.

Hashimoto also told Ishihara that he has sent an email message expressing his apology to Nippon Ishin candidates for the Tokyo assembly and Upper House elections, according to the party officials.

Ishihara accepted Hashimoto’s explanations, according to the officials.

“I am sorry for making the election situation worse,” Hashimoto said in the email message also sent to Nippon Ishin lawmakers. “My attitude and behavior based on my political convictions have made the battle we are facing a very severe one.”

The message urges the recipients to “join forces to win the fight for changing Japan.”

Hashimoto also said in the message that he is committed to his political beliefs and will “continue to say” what he has to say, indicating he won’t retract the remarks that have provoked harsh criticism at home and abroad.

In Sunday’s election, a prelude to the July Upper House poll, Nippon Ishin is fielding 34 candidates. A total of 253 candidates are vying for the 127 seats at stake.

On Wednesday, Hashimoto said he may resign as co-head of the party if results of the Tokyo election are disappointing.

Ishihara criticized Hashimoto on Tuesday in an interview with Kyodo, saying it was a “great nuisance” that his remarks have hurt the party’s public support.

Ishihara also said Hashimoto may have to resign depending on the outcome of the Upper House election.

Hashimoto has been under fire for a series of contentious remarks about Japan’s military brothels during the war and on recommending that U.S. forces in Japan use the country’s legal sex establishments.