• Kyodo News

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Japanese academics and lawyers will hold symposiums in 10 countries to mark the 70th anniversary of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, with the aim of countering what they see as an increasing trend in Japan to deny wartime atrocities.

The first symposium will be held Friday in Washington, cohosted by the United States Institute of Peace, to be followed by symposiums throughout early next year in Canada, Italy, Germany, China, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan and possibly France, the group told reporters Tuesday.

“The international community’s confidence in Japan will be undermined badly if other countries think that we are people who don’t accept what happened in the past,” said Hiroshi Oyama, a lawyer and head of the symposium organizer.

He also called Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent remarks disputing the Japanese military’s role in coercing females into sexual servitude for servicemen a “denial of history.”

He said such a denial has highlighted “a large gap” in the perception of history, noting Abe’s remarks have drawn criticism abroad and the U.S. Congress is moving to seek an official Japanese apology over the issue.

“We want to show through the symposiums that not all Japanese people are denying or forgetting the past and to contribute to reconciliation with East Asian countries” that suffered under Japan, said Oyama, who is representing Chinese plaintiffs in lawsuits seeking compensation from Japan for suffering during the war.

Perceptions of history, especially of Japan’s military aggression, continue to be a source of dispute in Japan’s relations with other parts of Asia. On the Nanjing Massacre, Japan and China have divergent views over what happened and how many lives were lost in the carnage.

In February, conservative lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party started research on the Nanjing Massacre, while a Japanese director backed by a number of similar conservative lawmakers and academics plans to shoot a documentary film that denies tens of thousands of people were slaughtered.

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