Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto on Wednesday sought to clarify his remarks on a system to recruit women into sexual servitude for Japan's soldiers during World War II, saying he personally does not condone the scheme.
Two days after he made controversial remarks that the so-called comfort women were "necessary to maintain discipline" in the Japanese military, Hashimoto told reporters he simply stated a fact that people at the time had that kind of view.
The comfort women system is a practice that "should not exist," said Hashimoto, who co-heads the opposition Japan Restoration Party.
The outspoken politician's remarks triggered protests from Japanese Cabinet ministers as well as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who said during a parliamentary committee session Wednesday that Hashimoto's views are "completely different" from his.
Hashimoto criticized Abe, saying remarks stating that the comfort women issue has been resolved legally are more hurtful for the former comfort women.
"I don't intend to justify (the comfort women system) but various countries at the time had similar schemes," the mayor said. "It's also a fact that countries in Europe and the United States used local women under the name of 'free love'."
He said that what he takes issue at is how only Japan is "unduly insulted" and singled out for the practice of sexual servitude.
"I wanted to raise the issue on why Japan alone is being criticized," he said.
Hashimoto, who is scheduled to visit the United States in June, said he is willing to discuss his remarks about comfort women if asked.
Since he made the remarks Monday, the Osaka city government has been flooded with criticism from residents and others, including the Chinese consulate general in the western Japan city protesting that it felt "shock and anger," city officials said.
According to the officials, a consulate staffer phoned the city office on Monday and conveyed a message from Liu Yiren, the consul general, urging Hashimoto to have a correct recognition of history as a mayor and politician.
In Okinawa Prefecture, 25 women's groups in the southwestern Japanese prefecture announced a statement, addressed to the offices of the Osaka city government and the Japan Restoration Party, demanding that Hashimoto retract his remarks and apologize.
Hashimoto also continued to express his view about his recent proposal for U.S. forces in Okinawa Prefecture to use Japan's legal adult entertainment industry to meet their sexual desires and curb the U.S. soldiers' crimes, saying they should "be serious in controlling their sexual desires."