Iris Chang’s controversial book “The Rape of Nanking,” which came out last December in the United States, has rekindled debate in Japan over the incident.

In May and June, two controversial movies portraying Japan’s wartime activities were screened: “Pride — The Fateful Moment” and a joint Hong Kong-China movie “Don’t Cry, Nanking.” The former portrays the trial and execution of Gen. Hideki Tojo, the wartime prime minister. The film drew criticism both at home and abroad for its apparent glorification of the war.

The latter portrays a Chinese family in Nanjing during Japan’s aggression into China in the 1930s. But on the first day of its screening in Yokohama, a man suddenly ripped the screen with a sharp blade near the end of the movie. The theater had been receiving letters from a rightist group urging it not to show the movie.

Another move came June 12, when Jiyushugi Shikan Kenkyukai (the Liberal Historical Views Study Group) held a news conference in Tokyo to tell foreign reporters about what it termed misused information in Chang’s book, including erroneous descriptions on photographs.

This is not the first time the controversy over the Nanjing atrocities has become a major point of contention. In 1972, when Japan restored diplomatic relations with China, Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka apologized for Japan’s wartime acts against the Chinese.

Ten years later, the Chinese and South Korean governments protested the Education Ministry’s history book screenings, which was said to have changed the wording of Japan’s military acts before and during World War II.

Some historians see Japan’s official stance as being based on the judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, noting the government’s signing of a peace treaty in 1951 was tantamount to accepting the ruling, which stated that more than 200,000 Chinese were victims in the Nanjing Massacre perpetrated by the Imperial Japanese Army.

The Foreign Ministry, however, does not specify the number of victims, claiming its stance is based on a 1995 statement by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, in which he expressed remorse and apologized for Japan’s acts against other parts of Asia before and during World War II.

China officially claims more than 300,000 died in the Nanjing Massacre.

To examine the current points of debate, Japan Times staff writers Kanako Takahara and Setsuko Kamiya interviewed various leaders on the topic.

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