TOKYO Jan 26 Japan should not be singled out
for criticism of the use of military brothels during World War
Two, the new chairman of Japan's influential public broadcaster
NHK was quoted as saying in remarks likely to spark widespread
The comments by Katsuto Momii, who has just taken over as
chairman of NHK, are also likely to become an additional
diplomatic headache for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Abe is already faced with deteriorating ties due largely to
territorial issues with China and South Korea, nations that
suffered from Japanese aggression before and during the war.
Abe, who visited a controversial shrine last month that
honours war criminals along with war dead, is also battling an
international image as a right-wing nationalist who wants to
revise Japanese history to have a less apologetic tone.
The issue of "comfort women", as those forced to work in the
wartime brothels are euphemistically known in Japan, is a
flashpoint in Japan's relationship with Asian nations,
especially South Korea. Many of the women forced to work in the
brothels were Korean.
Asked about the issue at a news conference on Saturday,
Momii said such things happened in every nation at war during
that time, including France and Germany.
"(The issue of) 'comfort women' is bad by today's morals,"
Momii was quoted as saying by the Asahi Shimbun daily. "But this
was a fact of those times."
"Korea's statements that Japan is the only nation that
forced this are puzzling. Give us money, compensate us, they
say, but since all of this was resolved by the Japan-Korea peace
treaty, why are they reviving this issue? It's strange," he
Japan says the matter of compensation was closed under the
1965 treaty that normalised diplomatic ties between them.
Momii said he was only giving his personal opinion but, when
reporters noted that he was speaking as a public figure, Momii
then said he retracted his remarks, the Asahi reported.
He also said it was "only natural" for NHK to take the
Japanese government position in international broadcasts on
things such as territorial disputes with China over uninhabited
islets in the East China Sea.
"International broadcasting is different from domestic," he
was quoted as saying. "If the government says 'left' we can't
Japanese politicians have repeatedly drawn fire for their
remarks over the military brothels.
Toru Hashimoto, the populist co-leader of a small right-wing
party, sparked a storm at home and abroad last year when he said
the military brothels had been "necessary" at the time and Japan
had been unfairly singled out for practices common among other
militaries during wartime.
Momii's comments have already sparked an angry response
within the government, the Asahi said, quoting an unidentified
cabinet minister as saying the remarks were unacceptable from
the head of national media and that Momii should resign.
Momii, who was vice president of trading house Mitsui & Co,
is set to serve as NHK chairman for three years. He has denied
that he was appointed because he was Abe's favoured candidate.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Paul Tait)