A giant Japanese-designed public artwork that will straddle Sydney's main street was unveiled Tuesday, dividing opinion with supporters saying it will boost the city's reputation and critics calling it "stupid".
Japan mayor to apologise to US over brothels advice
Osaka mayor, Toru Hashimoto, pictured at the Osaka city hall in western Japan, on May 24, 2013. Hashimoto, who drew fire for calling "comfort women" a wartime necessity, has been forced to apologise for suggesting US soldiers in Okinawa visit brothels to vent their violent frustrations.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto had suggested that US servicemen in the southern prefecture of Okinawa, where relations are frequently tested by violent crimes including rapes and assaults, patronise legal sex businesses there.
As the remark triggered disgust in the United States and outrage in Okinawa, Hashimoto said he would retract it at a press conference scheduled Monday at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Tokyo.
"The phrase 'sex businesses' was inappropriate," he said in a Saturday programme by YTV broadcaster. "I must apologise to the US military and American people and retract my comment" at the Monday press conference.
But Hashimoto said he has no intention of retracting his other controversial comment that "comfort women" served a "necessary" role during World War II in keeping soldiers in line, a remark that set off a volley of criticism from countries under Japan's rule in the 1930s and 1940s as well as from the US.
Most historians agree the Asian women were pressed into sexual slavery for the Japanese imperial army.
Hashimoto has insisted Japan's soldiers were not unique in brutalising women.
He was scheduled to meet a pair of former so-called comfort women on Friday, but the elderly South Korean women cancelled over fears of becoming political pawns in a long-running diplomatic dispute that has stoked tensions between Tokyo and Seoul.
"You should choose your politicians more wisely," said Kim Bok-dong, one of the two elderly women speaking at a meeting with supporters on Saturday.
"It is strange that such a man could become a mayor," she said to a crowd of around 500 South Korean and Japanese in the western city of Osaka.
On Friday, Hashimoto said his original remarks were misinterpreted.
"I happen to have used the word 'necessity' but it doesn't mean I personally meant it was necessary," he said.
"I mean that it is a historical truth that soldiers were using women. Was it not necessary for them?"
Sex slavery is a particularly sensitive issue in Korea, a former Japanese colony whose people made up many of the up to 200,000 "comfort women" forcibly drafted into brothels for the Japanese military during World War II.
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