World

Osaka mayor defends ‘comfort women’ remark

Says other nations also had brothels for their soldiers

TOKYO — An outspoken Japanese mayor who outraged many with remarks about Japan’s wartime and modern sexual services stood by his comments Thursday although he said he may have lacked ‘‘international sensitivity.’’

Mayor Toru Hashimoto of Osaka said his lack of sensitivity to America’s perception of prostitution might have caused outrage to his suggestion earlier this week that US troops based in southern Japan should patronize legal adult entertainment establishments to reduce sex crime there.

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Hashimoto, coleader of an emerging nationalist party, had already angered Japan’s neighbors by saying the Japanese military’s wartime practice of forcing women into prostitution was necessary to maintain discipline and provide relaxation for soldiers.

He asserted Thursday that the practice was widely used by many countries during World War II and that Japan was being unfairly singled out.

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Historians say up to 200,000 women, mainly from the Korean Peninsula and China, were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers in military brothels. While some other World War II armies had military brothels, Japan is the only country accused of widespread, organized sexual slavery.

Hashimoto’s comments added to recent ire in countries that suffered from Japan’s wartime aggression. Those countries have complained about the lack of atonement for atrocities.

Hashimoto said Thursday he had no intention of retracting his comments. But he said his remarks might have seemed inappropriate to people outside Japan with different values.

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‘‘If there is one big mistake I made, that might have been my lack of understanding of culture behind the US sex industry: If you mention adult entertainment in the United States, everyone thinks of prostitution,’’ Hashimoto said.

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