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Row over denial of massacre rages onNagoya mayor unrepentant even after Beijing complains to Tokyo about his comments, and incident threatens to cloud anniversary of Sino-Japanese tiesRaymond Li23 February 2012A row over the denial by the mayor of the Japanese city of Nagoya that the Nanking massacre ever took place escalated yesterday, and threatens to overshadow the 40th anniversary of the normalisation of Sino-Japanese relations.Nanjing suspended official contact with Nagoya - its sister city since 1978 - after the comments on Monday by Nagoya’s Mayor Takashi Kawamura.Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said yesterday that Beijing backed Nanjing’s decision.The ministry’s director general for Asian affairs Luo Zhaohui also “expressed strong dissatisfaction” over Kawamura’s remarks to the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s director-general for Asian and Oceanic affairs Shinsuke Sugiyama during a meeting in Beijing yesterday, Xinhua reported.“The mayor’s irresponsible statement distorted historical facts and seriously hurt China’s people’s feelings,” Luo said. Sugiyama said the mayor’s statement was a “personal opinion” and did not represent the Japanese government’s position.However, Kyodo News reported that Guangdong provincial party boss Wang Yang told Japanese ambassador Uichiro Niwa, who visited Guangzhou yesterday, that despite extreme views on both sides, the leaders should keep a cool head in handling such issues. At least 150,000 civilians were killed and tens of thousands of women raped by Japanese soldiers in the atrocity in 1937.Earlier yesterday, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Osamu Fujimura hit out at Kawamura for his denial, saying: “We cannot deny that the killing of non-combatants, looting and other acts occurred.”The comments by Kawamura, 63, came during a meeting with a Nanjing delegation led by Liu Zhiwei, a member of the local party Standing Committee.Kawamura, whose father was in Nanjing in 1945 at the end of the Japanese occupation, said: “I doubt that the Nanking massacre happened, even though conventional acts of combat took place.”Yesterday, the mayor appeared unrepentant. “As the disagreement over the incident is like a sting in a throat, I’ve proposed to hold a debate on it,” he told an audience in Tokyo.Asked if there was evidence to support his views, Kawamura said: “I think [the fact that] there is no witness [of the massacre] is quite substantive,” Kyodo reported. Meanwhile, Liu’s reported inaction in the face of the comments sparked uproar among mainland internet users, with some calling for his dismissal.Rejecting the Japanese media reports as biased, the Nanjing city government insisted Liu did respond to Kawamura’s comments, but it failed to give details of what he said.Tsinghua University Professor Liu Jiangyong said the row showed how unprepared government officials were when dealing with contentious issues in the international arena.He said: “They need to learn when to stand up in matters of principle, such as historical issues.”
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