The recently-appointed chairman of NHK, Japan’s national public broadcaster, used his first public news conference to express controversial political views that are sure to enflame already heightened tensions with neighboring countries.
“It’s only natural to clearly state that the Senkaku Islands and the Takeshima Islands are Japanese territories,” Katsuto Momii told reporters on Saturday – a comment that will undoubtedly deepen territorial rows with China and South Korea, who also claim sovereignty over the islets.
Momii also shocked those in attendance when he described international outrage over the issue of WWII comfort women – mostly South Koreans who were forced to work in Japan’s military brothels – as “puzzling.”Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
“[The issue of] comfort women is bad by today’s morals, but this was a fact of those times,” Momii said. “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.”
In addition to sharing his nationalist point of view on diplomatic relations, Momii also defended the notorious State Secrets bill – legislation that allows the government to hide information from the public by imposing up to a 10-year jail sentence and a $100,000 fine on whistleblowers who leak information regarding defense, diplomacy, counter-terrorism and counter-espionage.
“Now that [the bill] has been passed, there is no point in questioning it,” Momii added. “We will run [a relevant program] if that is necessary. It would be a problem if the government’s purpose is what the public is worried about. But I doubt that is the purpose.”
Momii, a former businessman with no prior experience in broadcasting, was appointed by a board of governors – who were first appointed by right-wing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Momii, who will serve as NHK chairman for three years, has denied that the appointment was influenced by Abe directly, despite reports that the prime minister favored him for the role.
“As a publicly funded broadcaster, NHK is supposed to be politically neutral,” reported the BBC. “Insiders at NHK say his appointment was an attempt by the [Abe administration] to bring the national broadcaster to heel.”
Some members of the Japanese government are already calling for Momii to step down.
“I am extremely angry because these gaffes are unthinkable for the head of a media company,” an unnamed member of the cabinet told the Asahi Shimbun after Momii’s news conference. “He should immediately resign.”