WASHINGTON — Reps. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) and Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) on May 15 strongly denounced remarks made by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto regarding Japan’s enslavement of 200,000 young women during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands.
Hashimoto told reporters this week that these so-called “comfort women” were “necessary” to assuage the emotionally charged Japanese soldiers. From the 1930s through World War II, the Imperial Armed Forces were responsible for systematic sexual servitude of young Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, Filipina, Dutch, and Indonesian women, some as young as 13 years old.
“Mayor Hashimoto’s remarks that comfort women were ‘necessary’ are contemptible and repulsive,” said Honda. “His view is an affront to history, humanity, and most of all to the young women who were coerced into horrific psychological, physical, emotional, and sexual violence, including gang rape, forced abortion, humiliation, and mutilation.
“As someone who was put into an internment camp as an infant, I know we must never be ignorant of the past, and that reconciliation through appropriate government action admitting error is the only resolution likely to be long lasting.
“Mayor Hashimoto’s comments demonstrate why a formal acknowledgement, apology, and acceptance of historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner by the government of Japan is still necessary. The surviving grandmothers, who I have met with numerous times, are the human face of wartime violence against women, and I am still haunted by their heart-wrenching testimonies. Their restored justice and dignity are long overdue.”
Israel said, “I am simply disgusted by the remarks uttered by Mayor Hashimoto regarding the history of ‘comfort women.’ These survivors of physical, sexual, and psychological violence deserve sincere and formal apologies and recognition for the atrocities they endured – not an abhorrent explanation by a public official.
“I strongly condemn Mayor Hashimoto’s remarks and continue to urge the Japanese government to offer a formal acknowledgement and apology for the atrocities committed by its Imperial Armed Forces during World War II.”
In 2007, Honda introduced a resolution calling on Japan to formally apologize, and addressed the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment. The resolution passed the House unanimously.
Both as a congressman and as a member of the California State Assembly, Honda has introduced resolutions calling on Japan to apologize to victims of its wartime actions, including survivors of the Rape of Nanking and POWs who were used as slave laborers.