US troops abused women during occupation, says Japan mayor

Updated 18 May 2013
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US troops abused women during occupation, says Japan mayor

TOKYO: Osaka's abrasive mayor yesterday hit back at US criticism of his remarks on wartime sex slavery, claiming American troops abused Japanese women during their seven-year occupation.
Washington denounced as "outrageous" comments earlier this week by Toru Hashimoto, who said "comfort women" forced to provide sex to Japanese troops during World War II were a military necessity.
"Mayor Hashimoto's comments were outrageous and offensive," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, urging Tokyo to work with its neighbors to address the past issue.
Up to 200,000 "comfort women" from Korea, China, the Philippines and elsewhere were forcibly drafted into brothels catering to the Japanese military during WWII, according to many mainstream historians.
But Hashimoto, whose quick tongue and forthright approach has won him friends and enemies in equal measure, hit back on Twitter.
"Let me go straight to the point. When America occupied Japan, didn't they make use of Japanese women?" Hashimoto Tweeted to his million followers.
"I can't help but point out that it is unfair for America to criticise only Japan by putting aside acts by its own country," said Hashimoto, who has been mentioned as a possible future prime minister.
"(The United States) should face what the US military did against local women, in particular Okinawan women when they occupied Japan," he added.
US-led Allied powers controlled Japan until 1952 following its surrender at the end of World War II.
The southern prefecture of Okinawa remained under US governance for another two decades before being returned to Tokyo.
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian John Dower is among credible sources who say American troops committed multiple rapes of Japanese women during the occupation and that press censorship muted reporting of these crimes.
Hashimoto also claimed that France and Germany were among countries that introduced wartime "comfort stations".
"It is a historical fact that the comfort station system was used during the Korean War and the Vietnam War," he Tweeted. He gave no details of this claim and did not say which side's soldiers used the brothels.
There is no mainstream evidence that modern militaries other than Japan's have employed a formal sex slavery system.
On Monday, Hashimoto prompted outrage at home and abroad by saying that soldiers living with the daily threat of death needed some way to let off steam and that this was provided by the comfort women system.
He said he believed the system was wrong and that former sex slaves deserved an apology.
The opinion that there is no proof of direct involvement in the sex slave system by the state or the imperial army is not uncommon on the right of Japanese politics.


Russia’s Port of Vladivostok prepares to host Kim Jong Un

Updated 40 min 59 sec ago
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Russia’s Port of Vladivostok prepares to host Kim Jong Un

  • Russian media were quick to report preparations were underway for the summit to take place in Vladivostok
  • Proximity is no doubt important for Kim, who is rumored to travel aboard his armored train

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected in Russia’s far-eastern port Vladivostok in the coming days, according to reports that have prompted excitement and concern among local residents.
After weeks of speculation, the Kremlin announced that Kim will visit Russia to hold his first talks with President Vladimir Putin in late April. It gave no details on a date or place, citing “security reasons.”
Russian media were quick to report preparations were underway for the summit to take place in Vladivostok, home to Moscow’s Pacific Fleet.
The port lies only about 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Russia’s short border with North Korea. This proximity is no doubt important for Kim, who is rumored to travel aboard his armored train.
The 35-year-old will be following in the footsteps of his father Kim Jong Il, who met the newly elected Putin in Vladivostok in 2002.
The far eastern city rarely sees major international events, and some locals are happy for the city to be in the spotlight.
“Any visit is good, whether it’s an enemy or a friend,” said Danil, a student at Vladivostok’s Far Eastern Federal University, billed by the media as a possible venue for the summit.
He welcomed the talks, saying “you can only make decisions through dialogue and communication.”
Nadezhda, a native of the city, said it will be a global event and “will be a boost for development in our city.”
Authorities this week were busy cleaning garbage near railways leading to the city, Russian media reported.
“The depressing view from the train window does not give a positive impression to guests of Vladivostok arriving by train,” an official from the local branch of Russian Railways told the Interfax news agency.
Nadezhda said she was “absolutely not afraid of (North Korea’s) nuclear program” and would like to see the country.
North Korea said this week it was testing nuclear weapons after a round of talks with the US ended in failure.
But Anna Marinina was less enthusiastic about the summit, and said that if Pyongyang did use its weapons, Vladivostok would be in the firing line.
“The people that panic the most about North Korea are safe on the other side of the ocean,” she said.
“If something were to happen, it would fall on us.”
Putin has long said he was ready to meet with Kim and is preparing to play a bigger role in nuclear negotiations with Moscow’s Cold War-era ally.
The last meeting between Russian and North Korean heads of state was in 2011, when Kim’s father traveled by train to Siberia, where he took a boat ride on Lake Baikal and held tightly guarded talks with then president Dmitry Medvedev.
There is a chance however that fresh talks will not take place at all, as Kim pulled out of 2015 celebrations in Moscow for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II at the last minute.