Japan's defence minister yesterday disowned remarks by an outspoken mayor who said "comfort women" forced to provide sex during the second world war were a military necessity.
The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe "never commits to such remarks or recognition of history", Itsunori Onodera told an Asian security conference in Singapore.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto prompted outrage at home and abroad by suggesting last month that battle-stressed soldiers during the war needed the services of up to 200,000 sex slaves from Korea, China, the Philippines and elsewhere.
"In the past, Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations," Onodera said. "Consecutive Japanese governments have humbly acknowledged such historical facts, expressed deep remorse and genuine apologies."
The Osaka mayor has cancelled a trip to the United States after officials there denounced his remarks as outrageous and offensive.