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.


Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

Updated 20 sec ago
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Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

  • 15 ambassadors will join Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
  • The three-day retreat will begin on Friday.

United Nations, United States: After a week of bitter acrimony over Syria, UN Security Council ambassadors are heading to a farmhouse in southern Sweden for a retreat to try to break the deadlock over how to end the war.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley and her Russian counterpart Vassily Nebenzia will be among the 15 ambassadors joining Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
The three-day retreat beginning Friday comes after one of the council’s most divisive periods, with the United States and Russia split over the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma that lead to military action by Washington and its allies against Syria.
The council met five times on Syria last week including on Tuesday when Russia vetoed a US-drafted resolution setting up a chemical weapons probe while two other proposed measures failed to pass.
The Russia-US rivalry prompted Guterres to declare that the Cold War was “back with a vengeance.”
Asked whether he expected awkward moments during the Swedish retreat, Nebenzia told reporters: “I will see how they feel about dealing with me after all that happened.”
“It’s not news to anyone that the council is divided on Syria,” said Sweden’s Deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau. “There is some need for humility and patience at this moment.”
The council will be staying at Backakra, the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjold, who was the United Nations’ second secretary-general.
The residence located on the southern tip of Sweden, far from Stockholm, is a “fitting and inspiring venue” to reconnect with the power of diplomacy, said Skau.
“It’s a place to roll up our sleeves, take off our jackets and ties and come up with some real and meaningful ways forward,” he said.
The annual brainstorming session usually takes place in upstate New York, but Sweden, which is a non-permanent council member, offered to host this year’s gathering.
Guterres had told council members that the focus of the meeting would be his plan for a “surge of diplomacy” to address conflicts worldwide, but the council’s deadlock over Syria is emerging as the top priority.