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May 25, 2017

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NHK chief vows impartiality after war sex slavery remarks

TOKYO -- The embattled head of Japan's public broadcaster NHK insisted Wednesday it would remain impartial, after his controversial remarks about wartime sex slavery reportedly jeopardized an interview with U.S. ambassador Caroline Kennedy.

Katsuto Momii has been under fire after saying last month that the Japanese Imperial Army's system of forcing women into military brothels during World War II was "common in any country at war."

The issue is a particularly sensitive one for China and South Korea, which both suffered from Tokyo's brutal expansionism.

"The most important thing is that all NHK staff strictly adhere to the principles of freedom of expression, political neutrality and fairness," Momii told lawmakers who were considering NHK's annual budget.

"That I offered personal views at my inaugural press conference was inappropriate, and I will be more cautious in the future."

Momii has apologized for his statement.

But he has refused to quit or retract his remarks, raising questions over the integrity of the organization — amid wider concerns about the political views of Japan's conservative government.

A national Japanese journalists' association and rights groups, as well as thousands of NHK viewers, have demanded Momii's resignation, as the government distances itself from the remarks — saying they were "comments made as an individual."

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