National / Politics

Hashimoto to retract sex suggestion for U.S. military

But embattled mayor sticking to justification of wartime sex slavery

Kyodo

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said Saturday he will retract his remark that U.S. servicemen in Okinawa should use the prefecture’s adult entertainment industry to avoid committing sex offenses against local residents, and will apologize to the American people and military.

“My choice of words was inappropriate,” Hashimoto, who coheads Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) with former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, said on a TV political talk show.

He said he would like to make the apology at a news conference scheduled for Monday in Tokyo at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

On Friday, Hashimoto told reporters that he wanted to apologize to Americans and the U.S. military for the remark, admitting it was improper. He reiterated his excuse that it had been his intention to urge the U.S. military to “get serious about holding down the number of sexual offenses” against residents of Okinawa Prefecture and women in the U.S. military.

Meanwhile, he did not retract his remark that the system to recruit women into sexual servitude “was necessary” to maintain discipline in the Imperial Japanese military during the war.

“I was aware that I would be criticized not only from Japan but from countries across the world if I said anything about the issue of comfort women,” he acknowledged.

Such women, who provided sex at wartime brothels, are euphemistically referred to as “comfort women” in Japan.

On Friday, two South Korean former comfort women visiting Japan canceled a planned meeting with Hashimoto, saying through a representative they did not want to become his political pawns. Hashimoto had maintained he would meet with the women despite the uproar over his comments.

Hashimoto reiterated his argument Saturday, saying, “It is necessary for each country to review its past, in which it used such women in the battlefield, and not just accuse Japan.”

On May 13, Hashimoto said anyone can understand that such women were necessary for brave soldiers who had been at the frontlines. He also said that when he visited Okinawa to inspect the U.S. Futenma air base in late April he asked a senior military officer to let American marines use local adult entertainment services.

Hashimoto’s remarks have drawn criticism in and outside Japan, including from the U.S. State Department.

He subsequently said that his remark about U.S. servicemen lacked “international awareness” and that he lacked knowledge about American public morals and culture. He noted that he did not intend to encourage prostitution, but refused to retract his comment at that time.

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