Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) coleader Toru Hashimoto said Sunday he doesn't believe the so-called comfort women, over whom his controversial remarks have drawn flak, were "sex slaves who were unwillingly forced into service by the country through violence, threat and abductions."

Hashimoto, who is also the mayor of Osaka, said on a TV program he will clarify his views at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan on May 27.

While noting that Japan "has responsibility over former comfort women . . . whether they were sex slaves or not will affect how the world assesses (Japan). The militaries of other countries similarly used women during World War II. It is unfair to criticize only Japan."

"The United States has shelved the history of using local women during the Vietnam War," he also said.

Concerning his remarks that the system of comfort women was necessary, he explained, "I just said the military of the time was thinking it necessary."

About his suggestion that U.S. servicemen in Japan use the country's legal adult sex industry to prevent them from committing sex offenses — a remark Hashimoto said on Thursday lacked "international awareness" — he said, "I apologize to those working in the adult entertainment industry."

Later on Sunday, Hashimoto met with Shintaro Ishihara, the party's coleader, in Nagoya, apparently to talk over how to address the repercussions of Hashimoto's remarks ahead of the Upper House election in July.

Separately, Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe said his party no longer plans to cooperate with Nippon Ishin in the July election. "It is not a party we should be teaming up with," Watanabe told reporters.