Tokyo on Tuesday refused to comment on the controversial remarks by an outspoken politician claiming sex slaves during World War II were a “necessary” part of the war effort.

Toru Hashimoto, the outspoken mayor of Osaka, justified the taking of sex slaves or “comfort women” by Japanese soldiers, saying that they served a “necessary” role to provide ease for troops who were constantly facing possible death.

“When soldiers risk their lives under a hail of bullets, and you want to give them a rest somewhere, it is clear that you need a comfort women system,” Hashimoto told reporters on Monday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s top government spokesman, refused to comment directly on Hashimoto’s remarks, reports AFP.

“We feel pain towards people who experienced hardships that are beyond description and this administration shares the view held by past governments,” Suga only said.

South Korea and China, where thousands of women were forcibly drafted to cater to Japanese soldiers, slammed Hashimoto for his “flagrant” statement, Wall Street Journal reports.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing was “shocked and strongly infuriated” at the comments while South Korea’s foreign ministry said the remarks was “totally senseless” and an “insult against the dignity of women”.