Controversial Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, arguing that while Japan must admit its own historical wrongdoings it should also point out the mistakes of others, said in a speech over the weekend that Allied soldiers liberating France during World War II raped French women.
The comment is the latest instance of a right-wing politician jumping feet-first into the sensitive topic of the Japanese use of sexual slavery during World War II, which saw thousands of women — mainly Koreans — forced to work in military brothels.
“After landing in Normandy, Allied soldiers raped French women. ‘Comfort stations’ were built after things became too much,” Hashimoto said in the speech Sunday, extending Japan’s euphemism for the brothels. “It is a historical fact. It is an unfortunate past. We must never repeat it.”
Japan officially apologized for the “comfort women” system and maintains the treaty normalizing ties with South Korea decades ago settled the issue.
But the two Koreas continue to say Tokyo is not contrite enough — a stance that is reinforced every time a senior politician equivocates or attempts to play down the subject.
Conservatives — including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — feel Japan is unfairly singled out for wrongs that were more widespread than their accusers admit.
Historians agree that there were rapes by Allied soldiers in France. But apart from the Japanese, there is no generally accepted evidence of officially sanctioned sex attacks by any military during World War II.
“Europeans and Americans say ‘Japanese used sex slaves.’ We have to educate Japanese who would be able to argue and reply to them, ‘We were wrong, but you were wrong as well,’ ” Hashimoto said.
Hashimoto, whose small opposition party has recently fractured, is well known for stirring controversy.