The government’s top spokesman on Sunday said the Foreign Ministry has lodged a protest with China over President Xi Jinping’s remarks on the number of Chinese killed by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Nanjing Massacre in 1937.
At a think tank forum in Berlin on Friday, Xi said Japanese troops killed more than 300,000 residents when it captured what was then its capital during the Second Sino-Japanese war.
Xi also said more than 35 million Chinese were eventually killed or injured as Japan waged a war of aggression stemming from its militarism.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the protest was lodged with the Chinese government on Saturday. Although Tokyo does not deny that the Japanese army was involved in the killing and looting of Nanjing, it has refrained from stating the number of victims because views on the historical matter vary, he said.
“It is extremely regrettable” for the Chinese leader to make such comments on Japanese history in a third country, Suga said during a television appearance Sunday morning.
Chinese experts at a bilateral panel of historians in 2010 concluded that more than 300,000 were killed in the Nanjing Massacre, while Japanese historians cap the number at 200,000. Some estimates as low as 20,000.
This atrocity and other historical disputes have placed a constant strain on bilateral ties for years, but another major sticking point — the sovereignty row over the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands — came back with a vengeance after Japan effectively nationalized the chain in 2012.
China claims the islets as Diaoyu and Taiwan calls them Tiaoyutai.
Chinese ships have been shadowing or intruding into Japanese territorial waters around the islets ever since. On Saturday, three Chinese coast guard ships intruded for the seventh time this year, according to the Japan Coast Guard.
The Haijing 2101, Haijing 2151 and Haijing 2401 entered waters off Minamikojima, from around 10 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. Saturday, according to the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture.
A Japan Coast Guard ship told them to leave the waters, but the Chinese stayed for about two hours before departing.
In his Berlin speech, Xi responded to criticism of China’s growing military budget by saying that it is proportionate to the country’s size, and that Beijing’s aim is to prevent itself from ever again being oppressed or colonized by foreign powers.
On March 5, China announced a 12.2 percent rise in military spending to 808.23 billion yuan (¥13.38 trillion) for 2014.