Tokyo (AFP) – Japan’s western hub of Osaka has threatened to cut its sister city ties with San Francisco over a memorial to wartime sex slaves.
Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura announced the plan at a press conference Monday, saying he would end relations should San Francisco integrate land containing the statue into a public park.
The memorial was built last week on a privately owned plot next to a municipal park by a group of Chinese Americans and their supporters, according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
Japanese media has reported that San Francisco intends to extend the boundaries of the park because the owner of the plot wants to give it to the city.
“If San Francisco were to accept the donation, it will mean the city has expressed its wish to accept it in a public space,” Yoshimura told reporters.
“It would be the same as the city erecting it. Therefore, I will terminate our sister city relations,” he said.
Mainstream historians say up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea but also other parts of Asia including China, were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II as so-called “comfort women”.
Activists have in recent years set up dozens of statues in public venues around the world, many of them in South Korea, in honour of the victims.
The statues have drawn the ire of Tokyo, which has pressed for the removal of one outside its embassy in Seoul.
Japan signed a deal with South Korea in December 2015 offering an apology and one billion yen ($9 million) to open a foundation for those sex slaves still alive.
However, some in South Korea say Japan has not done enough to atone for its wartime misdeeds.