New York Times
TOKYO — The Chinese city of Nanjing has suspended its sister-city relationship with Nagoya in Japan after the Japanese city's mayor expressed doubts that the Japanese army's 1937 Nanjing Massacre actually took place, the Nagoya city hall said ...
Chinese City Severs Ties After Japanese Mayor Denies Massacre
Published: February 22, 2012
TOKYO — The Chinese city of Nanjing has suspended its sister-city relationship with Nagoya in Japan after the Japanese city’s mayor expressed doubts that the Japanese army’s 1937 Nanjing Massacre actually took place, the Nagoya city hall said Wednesday.
The falling out underscored how history remains a potential flashpoint 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, and directly to Chinese officials. But there is also a widely shared perception in Japan that China’s communist government plays up the massacre for its own propaganda purposes, with many serious historians dismissing the official Chinese claims of 300,000 dead as exaggerated.
Still, the Japanese government scrambled to head off a full-blown diplomatic incident. 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 business-like 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 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 then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi angered many in China and South Korea by visiting the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo that honors Japan’s war dead, included executed war criminals.
However, questions of history can still disrupt relations. In December, Japan’s prime minster, Yoshihiko Noda, was rebuffed by the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, during a trip to Seoul when he asked for removal of a statue in front of the Japanese Embassy there to remember 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.