Osaka mayor urges San Francisco board to retract condemnation

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said Thursday he has sent a letter to the board of supervisors of San Francisco, a sister city of the western Japan city, to request that it retract a resolution condemning his remarks about Japan's wartime system of military brothels.

The mayor, who co-heads the opposition Japan Restoration Party, has come under fire for the remarks he made in May that the wartime brothels were "necessary" for soldiers.

The board unanimously adopted the resolution on June 18, stating it "strongly condemns the attitude and statements" of Hashimoto "justifying the state-sponsored 'comfort women' system which forced hundreds of thousands of Asian women into sexual servitude for the Japanese military."

In the letter dated Aug. 13, Hashimoto said the resolution is based on "misunderstandings" as he has "never legitimized or defended the institution of 'comfort women,'" a euphemistic term in Japan describing women who were forced into wartime sexual servitude for the Japanese military.

"My statements on 'comfort women' have always been consistent with my concern for the protection and enhancement of women's dignity and human rights," he said.

The mayor said "the recent tendency of exaggeration" of the comfort women issue lies behind "misunderstandings" of the city board.

Hashimoto said the condemnation of Japan over the issue "often contains rootless and exaggerated claims. It is "simply a baseless statement" that all or most comfort women were abducted systematically by the Japanese authorities, he added.

Although many nations have been involved in wartime violations of the dignity of women by soldiers, "there has been a worldwide disseminated view that Japan's issue of 'comfort women' is peculiar and even unique in the history of mankind," he argued.

The mayor aired concerns over "the increasing movement to erect statues of 'comfort women' in different parts of" the United States, saying the "anti-Japan movements" reportedly backed by Korean Americans will "only degrade the honor of Japan and its people" and could harm Japan-U.S. as well as Japan-South Korea relations.

Hashimoto said he has "no intention to trivialize" the problem of comfort women by the Japanese military, but said that "attempts to single out and to criticize only Japan will make us blind to other past atrocities and also to contemporary problems of the same kind."

He urged each nation to "address this unacceptable problem as a common issue for human beings" and suggested Osaka and San Francisco cooperate in joint research on the issue of sex on the battlefield.

Hashimoto was scheduled to visit San Francisco and New York from June 10 but canceled the plan after he received a letter from a senior San Francisco city official in late May that urged the mayor to do so due to the furor caused by his remarks.