Toru Hashimoto, the outspoken mayor of Osaka whose comments last week justified Japan's practice of using women as sex slaves for the country's military, spent three hours Monday defending his remarks to the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Tokyo.
Hashimoto again insisted that Japan's soldiers were not unique in using "comfort women." He previously suggested that the 200,000 women from Korea, China, the Philippines, and Japan who were forcibly drafted into brothels during World War II played a "necessary role" in maintaining discipline and providing soldiers relief.
"[Sexual violation] existed in the armed forces of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and the former Soviet Union among others during World War II," Hashimoto told reporters Monday. "I believe there were some forms of human trafficking at such local facilities operated by the private sector and used by the U.S. and British militaries during World War II."
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Hashimoto, 43, who is also a co-leader of a nationalist party, also angered U.S. troops when he suggested they patronize Japanese adult entertainment establishments as a way to reduce sex crimes. He has since claimed the media misinterpreted his comments, but the damage is seemingly done.
On Thursday, Hashimoto offered to meet former sex slaves and "apologize firmly" for Japan's actions, calling them "a disgraceful act" that should not be repeated. But two former Korean sex slaves who were scheduled to meet with Hashimoto Friday cancelled last minute and demanded his resignation.
"We cannot compromise our painful past as victims and the reality that we still live today for Mayor Hashimoto's apology performance," the women said in a statement. "We don't need to be trampled on again."
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Others also voiced their outrage at Hashimoto's comments.
"Mayor Hashimoto's comments were outrageous and offensive,"
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told the BBC. "What happened in that era to these women who were trafficked for sexual purposes is deplorable and clearly a grave human rights violation of enormous proportions."
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