Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto made clear May 25 that he intends to apologize to the United States for suggesting that its military personnel utilize legalized sexual services in Japan.
During a TV appearance, Hashimoto, who is also co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, said, "I will have to make a proper apology on May 27 to the U.S. military and public as well as a retraction of the statement."
Despite a storm of protest over his comments, including one about the necessity of "comfort women" who provided sexual services to Japanese soldiers during World War II, Hashimoto has until now stood by his remarks.
His May 25 comment marked the first time he has shown a willingness to retract part of his comments.
Hashimoto is scheduled to hold a news conference May 27 at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo, where he can expect tough questioning about his views.
He created an international firestorm of criticism when he revealed that he suggested to a U.S. military commander in Okinawa earlier in May that military personnel use legal sex services to curb sexual assaults.
While indicating his retraction was aimed at the U.S. military and public, Hashimoto also explained that he initially made the comment because of sex crimes committed by U.S. military personnel in Okinawa Prefecture, where there is strong opposition to the massive U.S. base presence there.
He said the comment arose "out of remarks intended to cast light on the current situation in which the human rights of the Okinawa people are being violated."
He continued to state his case on the May 25 TV program that Japan was not the only nation whose military utilized the sex industry during World War II.
"There is no doubt that the United States and Britain used women provided by local private-sector businesses," Hashimoto said. "Germany and France also set up military brothels. After World War II, such brothels were also in existence during the Korean War. The use of women by the military should not be viewed as a taboo."
He also praised the Self-Defense Forces because the issue of using sex workers has never been raised, although the militaries of other nations continue to face problems over the issue.
A day earlier, Hashimoto expressed regret that two former South Korean "comfort women" had canceled a planned meeting with him on grounds they did not want to become his political pawns.
"Although it is very regrettable, the feelings of the other party mean everything," he told reporters. "It cannot be helped if someone says they do not want to meet with me now."
He added that he wanted to express his apology to the two women if his comments led to any misunderstanding that hurt them.
However, he also explained that he was not retracting his previous statement.
"I wanted to directly explain my overall intent," Hashimoto said. "I did not say that the system of using 'comfort women' was 'necessary.'"
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