WASHINGTON - A State Department spokeswoman on Thursday branded remarks by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto defending Japan’s wartime system of sexual servitude as “outrageous” in the first outright criticism of the comments by a U.S. government official.
Commenting on Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s contention that the system was considered necessary before and during World War II, Jen Psaki told a press briefing, “We have seen of course those comments. Mayor Hashimoto’s comments were outrageous and offensive.
“As the United States has stated previously, what happened in that era to these women who were trafficked for sexual purposes is deplorable and clearly a grave human rights violation of enormous proportions,” Psaki said.
“We hope that Japan will continue to work with its neighbors to address this and other issues arising from the past and cultivate relations that will allow them to move forward.”
A senior State Department official said on condition of anonymity that “we were all broadly offended by the comments in the building.”
Hashimoto, coleader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), the third-largest party in the Lower House with former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, has made a series of remarks arguing that the sex slavery system was considered necessary to keep discipline in the wartime Japanese military.
The women are euphemistically called “comfort women” in Japan.
He also suggested U.S. servicemen in Japan should use the country’s legal adult entertainment industry to prevent them from committing sex offenses against locals.
The comments have angered neighboring countries that suffered under Japanese rule before and during World War II and even baffled many members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet.
Hashimoto said Thursday he lacked “international awareness” with regard to his remarks about U.S. servicemen. He noted he did not intend to encourage prostitution but refused to retract the remarks.