YOKOHAMA--U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Japanese politicians that a lack of "sensitivity" on wartime issues could have serious consequences for the region's stability.
Ban, who was visiting Japan to attend the 5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development, expressed particular concern over Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto's recent comments that "comfort women" who provided sex to Japanese soldiers during World War II were necessary.
"I don't think the international community, and particularly the countries that have been affected, agree with his position," Ban said in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun on June 2.
Ban said he not only read about Hashimoto's comment in an article in the New York Times, but also went over the statement issued by Hashimoto on May 27 at a news conference held at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo.
"The leaders of any country, particularly Japan, who have all these historical legacies, should be extremely sensitive to the sufferings of those people who have suffered during the war, and they should really try to send their very thoughtful and caring hands to those people who have suffered," Ban said.
The U.N. secretary-general expressed his concerns that such historical views by Japanese politicians could lead to instability in the East Asia region.
As neighbors in Asia, Ban said that Japan, South Korea and China need to have a correct understanding of history in order to co-exist. He said the nations had "very unfortunate suffering caused by this history, (and) they should really try to overcome these past historical legacies."
Ban also criticized visits by members of the Abe Cabinet and other politicians to Yasukuni Shrine, which memorializes Japanese war dead along with 14 Class-A war criminals.
"(The visits have caused) negative reactions in the neighboring countries, and I hope this should be kept in mind by Japanese political leaders," he said.
In late May, the U.N. Committee against Torture issued a report about comments about comfort women by Japanese politicians which said, "attempts to deny the facts by the government authorities and public figures and to re-traumatize the victims through such repeated denials" should be refuted by the Japanese government.
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