February 25, 2012 by Water Wisdom
Published: February 22, 2012
TOKYO — The Chinese city of Nanjing has suspended its sister-city relationship with Nagoya, Japan, after Nagoya’s mayor expressed doubts that the Japanese Army’s 1937 Nanjing Massacre actually took place, the Nagoya City Hall said Wednesday.
The falling out began Monday, when Nagoya’s mayor, Takashi Kawamura, told a visiting delegation of Chinese Communist Party officials from Nanjing that he doubted that Japanese troops had massacred Chinese civilians. Most historians say that at a minimum, tens of thousands of civilians were slaughtered in Nanjing in one of the most infamous atrocities of Japan’s military expansion across Asia in the early 20th century.
The falling out underscored how differing views of history remain a problem in Japan’s ties with the nations that it once conquered. While such denials are common by Japanese conservatives like Mr. Kawamura, they are rarely raised in such a public manner, or directly to Chinese officials. But there is also a widely shared perception in Japan that China’s government plays up the massacre for its own propaganda purposes.
Still, the Japanese government scrambled to head off a full-blown diplomatic quarrel. The top government spokesman restated Japan’s official position that the massacre did, in fact, take place.
“This is a problem that should be appropriately resolved between the cities of Nagoya and Nanjing,” said the spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura.
The City Hall of Nagoya, an industrial city in central Japan, said it received what it described as a short and businesslike e-mail on Wednesday morning from the city government of Nanjing saying that the Chinese city was temporarily halting all exchanges.
On Wednesday, Mr. Kawamura remained unrepentant, saying that he did not intend to retract the statement or apologize. He explained that his father had been a solider in Nanjing in 1945, and was treated kindly by city residents, which he said would have been impossible had an atrocity taken place there just eight years earlier.
“There are many opinions about the so-called Nanjing incident,” he told reporters, using the Japanese term for the killings in December 1937. “I have said I want to have a debate with people from Nanjing.”
Such disagreements between Japan and its neighbors have quieted from the early 2000s, when Junichiro Koizumi, then prime minister, angered many in China and South Korea by visiting the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, which honors Japan’s war dead, including executed war criminals.
However, questions of history can still disrupt relations. In Kyoto, Japan, in December, Japan’s prime minster, Yoshihiko Noda, was rebuffed by the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, when Mr. Noda asked for removal of a statue in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul that remembered women forced to work as sex slaves for the Japanese military during World War II. The South Korean leader responded by asking for compensation for the surviving former sex slaves, most now in their 80s. Japan says war-related reparations were settled when it established diplomatic ties with South Korea after World War II.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: February 22, 2012
Earlier versions of this article misstated the location of the meeting in December between Yoshihiko Noda and Lee Myung-bak as Seoul and Tokyo.