Jin Matsubara, the Democratic Party of Japan’s Diet affairs chief, declined Friday to retract his remarks almost seven years ago insisting that there was no Nanjing Massacre, a move likely to stir the controversy already brewing over an NHK governor’s similar denial of one of the most notorious wartime atrocities committed by Japanese troops in China.

“You can understand my remarks if you read minutes (of the Diet sessions). (My opinion) is just like the remarks in the minutes,” Matsubara told a regularly scheduled press briefing at the Diet.

During a session of the Lower House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 25, 2007, Matsubara maintained that the wartime Chinese government didn’t claim there was or criticize a massacre by Japanese troops in Nanjing, leading to the natural conclusion that no mass-killing took place when they conquered the city in December 1937.

“There was no big massacre, nor a massacre. There’s no doubt about that,” Matsubara told the Lower House session.

His stance Friday is likely to blunt the DPJ’s criticism of writer Naoki Hyakuta, the NHK governor who caused a stir by similarly claiming that no massacre took place in Nanjing, echoing many nationalistic lawmakers and political activists.

The DPJ has demanded that Hyakuta be summoned to the Upper House to give unsworn testimony during the current Diet session.

The DPJ set up a project team Thursday to study the political neutrality of the NHK board of governors, including Hyakuta.

This team, however, will not question “the substance” of Hyakuta’s claim, Matsubara said.

“(The issue) is not whether (the massacre) did happen or not. I think the project team will discuss the fairness and neutrality of NHK,” Matsubara said.

Based on records left by the Japanese military, mainstream Japanese scholars and historians have agreed that massacres were in fact committed in Nanjing by Japanese troops, in particular of numerous captive Chinese soldiers.

But their estimations of victim numbers vary from 40,000 to 200,000, while China has claimed 300,000 people were killed.

Asked what kind of “massacre” he denied taking place, Matsubara declined to elaborate during Friday’s briefing.

“I’m not in a position to comment on that right now,” he said.

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