A reporter from Asahi Shinbun went to the daily briefing at the State Department on May 16, 2013 and asked questions to the spokesperson Jen Psaki.
What do you think of Mayor Hashimoto's comments?
What do you think, were those women "comfort women" or "sex slaves"?
From the US Department of State Daily Briefings transcript for May 16, 2013:
QUESTION: Hi, my name is Takashi from Japanese newspaper Asahi. Osaka City Mayor Hashimoto recently made a comment on the so-called “comfort women” issue, arguing that even though it is unacceptable from the moral perspective value, but the comfort women were necessary during the war period. And he also argued that it is not fair that only Japan is criticized by the United States and other countries, because there are other country military that were provided sexual service by prostitute. And do U.S. has any position on his comment or criticism against the United States?
MS. PSAKI: We have seen, of course, those comments. Mayor Hashimoto’s comments were outrageous and offensive. As the United States has stated previously, what happened in that era to these women who were trafficked for sexual purposes is deplorable and clearly a grave human rights violation of enormous proportions. We extend, again, our sincere and deep sympathy to the victims, and we hope that Japan will continue to work with its neighbors to address this and other issues arising from the past and cultivate relationships that allow them to move forward.
QUESTION: Do you describe this issue sex slave or comfort women?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t know that I’m going to define it. You kind of laid out the specific details there, and we have described this issue in the past as comfort women[ii].
What is the footnote ii? Well I am afraid even the Asahi reporter managed to piss off the State Department (emphasis below is mine):
[ii] Rather than focusing on the label placed on these victims, we prefer to address the fact that this was a grave human rights violation of enormous proportions. The United States is also committed to working with our partners and allies around the world to denounce modern-day slavery and trafficking in persons no matter where it occurs.
これらの被害者につけられたラベル［慰安婦（Comfort women)か性の奴隷（Sex slaves）か］にこだわるよりも、私たちは、これが、重大で恐ろしく大規模な人権の蹂躙であったという事実に向き合う[事実を扱う］方を好む。アメリカ合衆国はまた、世界のパートナーや同盟諸国と共に、世界のどこであろうと現在存在する奴隷制度、人身取引を強く非難する。
I couldn't believe it until I read several articles by the Japanese media and tweets by some Japanese, but some people in Japan do seem to think if those women were called "comfort women", somehow they were part of the legitimate business. And they are shocked that foreign media portrays these women as "sex slaves". Thus the Asahi reporter asked that question.
If you start to believe in your own shit (often called "tatemae" in Japanese, literally "a facade"), you are toast. But many Japanese do not even know that any more. Lost art of tatemae and honne.