Defense Agency Director General Shigeru Ishiba apologized Friday for saying earlier this week that the Self-Defense Forces are sometimes referred to as “the autistic forces.”

“I had read an article that had such a reference, but (my remarks) were truly inappropriate,” Ishiba told a regular news conference.

While at a party Tuesday evening in Tokyo, Ishiba said the SDF “has sometimes been made fun of as the ‘autistic forces.’ It’s the autistic forces as in autistic children.”

The remark was apparently intended as a pun. “Self-defense” in Japanese is pronounced “jiei,” while autistic is “jihei.” Ishiba was apparently referring to the fact that the SDF has not always made the best job of communicating its activities, resulting in a lack of public understanding.

He said Friday that he has been widely criticized for the remark.

“It is an undeniable fact that my remarks have hurt relevant parties, and I sincerely apologize,” he said. “I will have to reflect (on my actions) and caution myself against repeating such an act.”

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