Minister may resign over Nanking comment

TOKYO - Japan's Justice Minister yesterday apologised for saying earlier this week that the infamous 'Rape of Nanking' never happened, and hinted that he might resign over the controversy, writes Terry McCarthy.

Furious protests have been lodged by China, Taiwan, North and South Korea, Vietnam and Singapore over the minister's comments, in which he also claimed that Japan's invasion of Asia half a century ago was not an act of aggression, but of liberation from Western colonialism.

Shigeto Nagano, 71, was made Justice Minister by Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata last week. At a press conference yesterday Mr Nagano said: 'I will consult with Prime Minister Hata and take his advice whether to resign. I would like to express deep repentance and apology.'

Mr Hata has already said that Mr Nagano's comments were 'inappropriate'. Mr Hata has said he is in favour of Japan coming to terms with its war guilt, and apologising to its neighbours.

In an interview published by the Mainichi newspaper on Wednesday, Mr Nagano said the 'Rape of Nanking' in December 1937, when Japanese troops killed more than 100,000 civilians and raped tens of thousands of women, was a 'fabrication'.

The Asian nations were incensed at his claim that Japan's invasion was merely to set up a Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere to benefit everyone.

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