• The Associated Press

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A group of about 100 lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Tuesday that after a monthlong review they have determined the number of people killed by Japanese troops during the Nanjing Massacre of 1937 has been grossly inflated.

Nariaki Nakayama, head of the group created to study World War II historical issues and education, claimed that documents from Japanese government archives indicate some 20,000 people were killed — about one-tenth of the more commonly cited figure of 150,000 to 200,000 — in the attack. China says as many as 300,000 people were killed.

“We conclude that the death toll in the Nanjing advance was nothing more or less than the death toll that would be expected in a normal battle,” Nakayama told a news conference.

He said the study, which was initiated in part because this year marks the 70th anniversary of the incident, determined that there was no violation of international law.

“We have no intention to fan the problem over the interpretation of wartime history between the two countries, but we want to achieve justice,” he said. “We cannot ignore propaganda trying to portray the Japanese as brutal people, so we decided to examine primary documents to restore the honor of the Japanese people.”

Nakayama distributed at the news conference a document submitted in 1938 by China’s Nationalist government to the League of Nations, the forerunner to the United Nations, calling for Japan to be denounced for killing 20,000 people in the attack.

The Chinese representative to the league, Wellington Koo, quoted newspaper reports from the Daily Telegraph and Morning Post dated Jan. 28, 1938.

Nakayama accused China’s government of subsequently inflating the numbers for propaganda purposes.

Toru Toida, another member of the group, demanded that photos portraying the Japanese military in a negative light be removed from Chinese war memorials.

“We are absolutely positive that there was no massacre in Nanjing,” Toida said.

Memorials to the killings are scattered throughout the city, and the main memorial — built on the site of a mass grave — is visited by tens of thousands of Chinese schoolchildren each year.

Nakayama’s group is right of center within the LDP, but many conservatives are disgruntled over what they claim are exaggerated stories of Japanese brutality during World War II.

For related stories:

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Nanjing Massacre movies toe a tricky line

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