Nagoya mayor won’t budge on Nanjing remark

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura on Wednesday refused to retract his contentious comments about the veracity of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre and said he is ready to visit the city to explain his views.

Speaking Monday to a group of Chinese Communist Party members from Nanjing, Kawamura said he was skeptical about whether the Imperial Japanese Army actually raped and slaughtered thousands of Nanjing residents during the war.

The city of Nanjing responded by suspending exchanges with Nagoya, while Beijing assured him it had “solid evidence” proving the massacre took place.

“I don’t have any intentions of retracting my comments or apologizing,” Kawamura told reporters Wednesday. Nagoya and Nanjing became sister cities in December 1978, and the mayor was optimistic the relationship would stay on good terms.

“Our friendly ties with the city of Nanjing will remain unchanged,” Kawamura said.

Disputes over the Nanjing Massacre are a constant source of friction in Sino-Japanese relations, and Kawamura’s comments are merely another example of the skewed perceptions held by Japan’s politicans.

In May 1994, then Justice Minister Shigeto Nagano, a former chief of the Ground Self-Defense Force, said the Nanjing Massacre was a “fabrication.” Nagano, who played a key role in having references on the sexual slavery perpetrated by the Imperial army deleted from history textbooks, resigned after the comment caused outrage in China.

Three months later in August 1994, then Environment Agency chief Shin Sakurai stepped down after stating Japan “did not intend to invade” Asia.

Similarly in 1995, then Management and Coordination Agency chief Takami Eto said Japan did “some good deeds” during its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, resulting in the veteran lawmaker being booted from the Cabinet.

However, Kawamura’s comments come at a crucial time in bilateral relations as the two sides prepare to mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties this year.

Activities to honor the anniversary kicked off with a grand ceremony last Thursday in Beijing, with pop music sensation AKB48 scheduled to perform as a part of the commemoration ceremonies Sunday in Shanghai. A series of events are also scheduled to be held throughout the year in other cities, including Nanjing Japan Week, which kicks off March 9.

SKE48, a similar idol group from Nagoya, was set to visit the city as well but is apparently reconsidering in light of Kawamura’s actions.

With Xi Jinping expected to succeed Hu Jintao as China’s new leader later this year, Tokyo is eager to avoid sparking any controversy with Beijing so it can present an amicable relationship.

Kawamura said Monday that only “conventional acts of combat” took place in Nanjing and that the likelihood that mass murder took place there was doubtful.

Nanjing, the former capital of China, fell to the Imperial army on Dec. 13, 1937. Beijing says 300,000 soldiers and civilians were slaughtered during the invasion.

But loss of historical records in both Japan and China has made the task of determining the number of victims elusive to this day. Most Japanese experts claim Beijing’s figure is off, but their estimates range from at least 10,000 to more than 200,000.