LOS ANGELES (Kyodo) -- The mayor of San Francisco on Thursday denounced Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura for "unilaterally" ending the two cities' decades-old sister city relationship over a statue symbolizing Asian "comfort women" forced into wartime brothels for the Japanese military.
"One Mayor cannot unilaterally end a relationship that exists between the people of our two cities, especially one that has existed for over sixty years," Mayor London Breed said in a statement.
"In our eyes, the sister city relationship between San Francisco and Osaka continues today through the connection of our people, and San Francisco looks forward to strengthening the bonds that tie our two great cities together," she said.
Breed's office received Tuesday a letter from Yoshimura giving notification of the termination days before what would have been the 61st anniversary of the sister-city relationship.
Yoshimura had threatened to severe Osaka's ties with San Francisco after a local private organization set up the statue in the U.S. city's Chinatown in September last year.
The memorial depicts three Asian girls holding hands and pays tribute to women and girls forced to work in brothels for the Japanese military before and during World War II.
The Osaka mayor had said its inscription bore uncertain and "one-sided" claims about the extent of the Japanese military's involvement in the brothels and the degree of the damage inflicted.
Breed's predecessor Edwin Lee had accepted the donation of the statue to the city from the private organization weeks before his death in December.
"The San Francisco comfort woman memorial is a symbol of the struggle faced by all women who have been, and are currently, forced to endure the horrors of enslavement and sex trafficking. These victims deserve our respect and this memorial reminds us all of events and lessons we must never forget," Breed said.