TOKYO - Japan's newly appointed Justice Minister says the Rape of Nanking, in which tens of thousands of Chinese were massacred by Japan's Imperial Army, never took place. The comments by Shigeto Nagano are in line with nationalist attempts to rewrite Japan's wartime history and will not help government efforts to improve relations with other Asian countries, writes Terry McCarthy. Mr Nagano, who fought in China during the war and became a chief of staff of Japan's post-war army, also denies Japan was the aggressor in its invasion of Asia. The Imperial Army was merely liberating countries colonised by the West, he claimed yesterday. His outburst contradicted the former prime minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, who said Japan had waged 'a war of aggression and a wrong war'. It also went against the current Foreign Minister, who said last week that the new government would 'take over what Hosokawa said in his policy speech . . . we feel the pains suffered by people in Asia and neighbouring countries during Japan's act of aggression and colonial rule'.
Mr Nagano told the Mainichi paper: 'I think the Nanking massacre is a fabrication . . . Calling that war a war of aggression is incorrect. If you say it was done with the intention to invade, that's wrong.'
The Rape of Nanking is perhaps the greatest controversy from Japan's war in China and South-east Asia from 1937 to 1945. After the city was captured in 1937, troops began torturing, murdering and raping, leaving more than 100,000 dead.