Former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said that outspoken Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s statements about the necessity of the “comfort women” system Japan employed during World War II was simply “inane”. He emphasized that the remarks were harmful not just to Japan, but to its allies as well.
Speaking at a forum on the Japanese-U.S. alliance in the context of Asia, Armitage said that the controversy’s real crime is that it is “at odds” with Japan’s image of the past 70 years where they have been “a paragon of protection of human rights and human freedoms.” He also said that incidents like this gives China a reason to tell the world that Japan and its leadership are veering towards right-wing politics and refuses to face responsibility for its militarism and wartime history. When it comes to South Korea, Armitage said that “bad comments” like this further hurts them because not only is it disrespectful to the thousands of Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery during the war, but in the present day, it diverts attention from more important issues like the North Korean nuclear program, China’s growing might and territorial disputes.
Armitage downplayed another issue which is the unannounced Pyongyang trip of one of Abe’s closest advisors, Isao Iijima, in order to open talks with North Korean officials on the issue of the abduction of Japanese nationals during the 70s and 80s. He however noted that Japan needs to “take into consideration to some extent the others’ equities” and inform their allies like the US and South Korea when they are dealing with issues with North Korea.