Embattled Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto indicated on May 28 that he was canceling a planned mid-June visit to the United States, staving off a controversy that could have dogged his trip and triggered demonstrations in American cities.
Criticism had arisen in the United States and elsewhere around the world after Hashimoto made comments earlier this month that "comfort women," who provided sexual services to soldiers in the Imperial Japanese Army before and during World War II, were "necessary" at that time.
The cancellation of Hashimoto's trip to the United States may have been done to avoid possible controversy and further friction in the United States. The Osaka mayor had planned visits to San Francisco and New York for meetings with their mayors as well as visits with local companies.
Because both cities have large numbers of Asian residents, the possibility of demonstrations against Hashimoto during his visits was likely.
Hashimoto, who is also co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, also suggested to a U.S. military commander in Okinawa that service members use the local adult entertainment industry as a means of keeping a handful of heartless soldiers under control.
At a May 27 news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo, Hashimoto apologized to the U.S. military and the public for his remark about the use of the adult entertainment industry and retracted his earlier statement.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson previously described Hashimoto's comment related to the U.S. military as "outrageous and offensive."
However, Hashimoto did not retract his statement about the comfort women and added that the 1993 statement issued in the name of then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, which included an apology to the comfort women, should be clarified in terms of whether the will of the Japanese state was involved in the systematic abduction and trafficking of the women and girls.
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