Outspoken Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto on Monday said that comfort women -- a euphemism for sex slaves -- used by the Japanese imperial army before and during World War II were necessary for the wellbeing of troops.
Speaking at a news conference, Hashimoto said that the women were needed to provide "the brave frontline troops with rest and relaxation," TBS reported. He said the system was also important for maintaining discipline and that other countries used similar systems during wartime.
Monday's comments were not the first time that Hashimoto, who co-heads the Nippon Ishin No Kai (Japan Restoration Party), has made controversial remarks on the issue.
Historians say about 200,000 "comfort women" from Korea, China, the Philippines and elsewhere were drafted into Japanese army brothels.
The issue, along with other wartime atrocities perpetrated during the Japanese occupation, has long remained a source of contention between Tokyo and its neighbors, notably South Korea.
In the 1993 statement, Japan offered "sincere apologies" for the "immeasurable pain and suffering" inflicted on comfort women. Two years later, Japan issued a broader apology expressing "deep remorse" for war suffering.
That apology remains passionately opposed by some Japanese conservatives who contend that the country did not directly coerce the women.© Japan Today/AP