Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto sorry for insulting US in prostitute row
An outspoken Japanese politician apologised yesterday for saying US troops should patronise prostitutes as a way to reduce rapes, but defended another remark about Japan's use of sex slaves during the second world war.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, co-head of an emerging nationalistic party, said his remarks rose from a "sense of crisis" about sexual assaults by US military personnel on Japanese civilians in Okinawa, where US troops are based.
"I understand that my remark could be construed as an insult to the US forces and to the American people" and was inappropriate, he said at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Tokyo.
Hashimoto created uproar with comments two weeks ago about Japan's wartime and modern sexual services. They added to anger in neighbouring countries that suffered from Japan's wartime aggression and have complained about the lack of atonement for atrocities committed during that time.
Hashimoto said on May 13 that on a recent visit to the southern island of Okinawa, he suggested to the US commander that the troops there "to make better use" of the legal sex industry. "If you don't make use of those places you cannot control the sexual energy of those tough guys," he said.
He also said that Japan's wartime practice of forcing Asian women, mostly from South Korea and China, to work in frontline brothels was necessary to maintain discipline and provide relaxation for soldiers.
He did not apologise for those comments, but he did call the use of so-called comfort women an "inexcusable act that violated the dignity and human rights of the women, in which large numbers of Korean and Japanese were included".
Still, he claimed he had been quoted out of context. He said he was trying to say that armed forces of nations around the world "seem to have needed women" in past wars and also violated women's human rights during wartime.
Singling out Japan was wrong, as this issue also existed in other armed forces during the second world war, he alleged.
Historians say up to 200,000 women, mainly from the Korean Peninsula and China, were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers in military brothels.